Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Barry Weisberg

No to the CPUSA Revisionist Ticket

First Published: Unite!, Vol. 6, No. 16, September 1, 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

This article on the “People Before Profits” election campaign of the revisionist Communist Party, U.S.A., is part of an ongoing series on communism in America.

Larger and larger numbers of people are coming to the conclusion that none of the existing Presidential candidates, least of all Carter or Reagan, offer any real alternative or any real solutions to the crisis of capitalism. Everywhere you can hear people saying that there is no real difference between Carter and Reagan. Working people are looking for an alternative to the two front-runners this year. This is why the Marxist-Leninists of the U.S. stand at the forefront of the call for No Vote November 4th!, for a rejection of the imperialist politicians and all their reformist and revisionist handymen.

Marxist-Leninists do not reject participation in elections, but as Lenin pointed out, they strive to create “new, unusual, non-opportunist, non-careerist” election work. They must “not strive at all to ’get seats’ in parliament, but should everywhere strive to rouse the minds of the masses and draw them into the struggle, to hold the bourgeoisie to its word and utilize the apparatus it has set up, the elections it has appointed, the appeals it has made to the whole people, and to tell the people what Bolshevism is....”

Today, the Marxist-Leninist party of the U.S., the CPUSA/ML, implements these ideas expressed by Lenin through its No Vote November 4th! campaign. Past issues of UNITE! have focussed on Carter or Reagan, but it is also important to assess the “alternatives” to the Democratic and Republican parties, this election year. One of these “alternatives” is the effort of the CPUSA, which is working to organize people to support its “People Before Profits” election campaign and the platform of Hall and Davis, revisionist candidates for President and Vice President.

A Revisionist Legacy of Electoral Politics

From its inception in 1919, the Communist Party in the U.S. has always had to fight for its existence, against both the severe ideological and social pressure of the imperialist bourgeoisie from within its ranks, and the massive external attacks and pressure from the outside. Through the 1930’s, the CPUSA reached its revolutionary zenith in the U.S., able to lead, organize, mobilize and educate millions of working class people in the class struggle. It had important success in the leadership of the struggles for better living conditions, industrial trade unions, democratic rights and the anti-fascist struggle. But all during this time, the Party never succeeded in creating a solid, Marxist-Leninist foundation to its work.

Even during the 1930’s, signs of the CP’s degeneration were evident. Among the most important was the revisionist history of “democracy” in America, fabricated by Earl Browder, as early as 1934. The Party, not just Browder, elaborated an all-round theory of the relationship of communism to “American democracy”. Browder and the Central Committee failed completely to distinguish between the traditions of bourgeois democracy applied in the pre-imperialist era and the steady erosion of democracy which is characteristic of the imperialist stage of capitalism. In this way, the class content of democracy as a political system was obliterated.

Furthermore, Browder sought to eliminate the fundamental distinction between the traditions of bourgeois democracy found in Jefferson, Lincoln and others, and the entirely new, proletarian democracy which had been constructed in the Soviet Union, led by Lenin and Stalin. This led the CPUSA at its 8th Convention in 1934, to adopt the thoroughly corrupt slogan that “Communism is 20th Century Americanism.” By this, the Central Committee of the CPUSA meant that the bourgeois content of “American democracy” was in essence the meaning of communism, which would therefore develop peacefully, without class struggle, in the U.S.

The election efforts of the CPUSA this year and their participation in the bourgeois “democratic” electoral system over the past decades, must be viewed within this revisionist tradition.

The Workers (Communist) Party first ran a presidential candidate in 1924: William Z. Foster, a popular labor leader. But this effort was largely a response to Lenin’s book, “Left Wing Communism, An Infantile Disorder”, where he cautions against the sectarian stand of ignoring the bourgeois elections. The Party did not seek to take up such election campaigns in earnest until the 1930’s.

The election in 1932 marked the height of the Party’s election work. Just 37 months after the Great Depression began, the Party advanced William Z. Foster and James W. Ford as candidates on the ballot in 40 states. The Party’s platform synthesized the genuine democratic demands of the masses but failed to point out clearly that socialist revolution was the only road out of the crisis. Despite Foster’s heart attack before the election, the Party received 102,991 votes. It was never again to approach this level of support.

By 1936, the roots of revisionism had already been firmly established in the leadership of the Party. Earl Browder emerged as the candidate for President with James Ford as his running mate. However, the main effort of the Party was in fact, to actually support Roosevelt. In defining the central question of the campaign as “democracy vs. fascism”, the Party abandoned propaganda about the necessity for socialist revolution.

1940 saw the Party’s influence waning dramatically, a direct consequence of its growing revisionist line. Again Browder and Ford ran, but the Party received only 46,251 votes. Events moved rapidly after the November, 1940 elections. The Party convened a special convention that same month and pulled out of the Communist International in order, it alleged, to avoid the consequences of the fascist Voorhies Act, which barred organizations from international affiliation.

The Party then moved to bar membership to non-U.S. citizens, and wound up supporting the internment of Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor. The Party had reached the point of no return, and in 1944, was liquidated. While it was reestablished the year later, it never truly recognized nor abandoned the depth of its revisionist underpinnings.

For the next 28 years, the CPUSA did not run Presidential candidates, allegedly because of the influence of McCarthyism. It was not until 1968 that the CPUSA, by then a complete vassal of the social-imperialist Soviet Union, ran Charlene Mitchell (now the head of the National Alliance Against Racism and Repression) and Mike Zagarell. In 1972, the Party ran Gus Hall and Jarvis Tyner and received 25,000 votes. The two ran again in 1976 and received about 58,000 votes.

1980: “People Before Profits”

In the 1980 election campaign, the CPUSA is running Gus Hall for President and Angela Davis for Vice President. It is presently on the ballot in only 12 states, though this is likely to increase.

The current platform of the CPUSA reveals a close connection with its revisionist history. The CP’s remedy for layoffs and plant closings is legislation to prohibit companies from closing plants (which would mean that the rights of private property could be limited by the very state designed to protect them); legislation to eliminate unemployment; and participation in government-corporate-union commissions to ensure “justice”. The CPUSA also has called for a government agency to “keep mills and factories open.” In addition, it calls for nationalization of industry. All of these measures mean only further integration of the state with monopoly capitalism, enforcing class collaboration and strengthening the state apparatus.

In the labor movement, the CP’s “alternative” is the “left-center coalition” which is the basis of the reformist Trade Unionists for Action and Democracy. In this coalition, the CP seeks to move the left toward the center, in opposition to the revolutionary call for the leadership by the most advanced, militant fighters in the class struggle. In opposition to the revolutionary trade union movement, they issue the pathetic slogan that “an injury to one is an injury to all.” In contrast, the revolutionary Trade Union Action League declares that “an attack on one will be answered by all.”

In the struggle for democratic rights for the working class and national minorities, the CPUSA concocted a new theory for its recent 22nd Convention, on the “new level of the process of unification, the oneness of the class, the new level of unity.” Thus the CPUSA ignores the actual mounting divisions within the ranks of the working class and with its same theory of “oneness”, it obliterates the existence of oppressed nations within the U.S. and denies their right to self-determination. It is worth noting that this same theory was advanced by the liquidationist faction of Al Thrasher, Malcolm Suber and others, purged from the CPUSA/ML this year.

The essence of the CPUSA’s strategy is its “anti-monopoly coalition”, from which flows its election slogan of “People Before Profits.” The CP completely rejects the Marxist-Leninist thesis that the capitalist class as a whole is reaction all along the line, and that there are no progressive sections of the capitalist class in the U.S. Therefore, it aims to ally the working people, “middle” class and non-monopoly sections of the capitalist class against the large monopolies. Thus, the interests of the “people”, which includes small capitalists, are to take precedence (peacefully of course!) over the exorbitant profits of the monopolies. Supposedly the profits of the smaller capitalists are acceptable, although they derive from the very same exploitation as profits for large monopolies!

Here lies the poisonous connection between the revisionist conceptions of “American democracy” advocated by Earl Browder and the “transition” to socialism advocated by Gus Hall and Co. today. Absent is the necessity for socialist revolution and armed struggle. Allegedly, bourgeois democracy in America will itself lead to socialism, in a peaceful transition, with sections of the capitalist class along for the ride! But the extension of democracy, no matter how beneficial, never leads by itself to the overthrow of capitalism.

The CPUSA, together with its sister parties around the world, such as the Eurocommunists, directly rejects Lenin and proclaims its “hope” that socialism will come to the U.S. through elections. It is as if the CPUSA is trying to conceal that the bitter counter-revolution in Chile, a direct consequence of the illusion that socialism can be won by the ballot from the bourgeoisie, had never happened.

There is little need to recount the CPUSA’s foreign policy in detail: its support for the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, the Cuban interference and domination of Angola, the Soviet invasions of Eritrea and recently Afghanistan, its daily agitation for the illusion of “detente” and Soviet aggression around the world. Nor is it hard to see the connection between the infamous “party of the whole people” advocated by Nikita Khrushchev and the “party of the people” (not the working class) advocated by the CPUSA today.

The modern revisionist character of the CPUSA is vividly expressed in the stated aims of its election campaign. The important measure of this election, states the CPUSA, is the total number of so-called “independent” votes cast. Among the independents, the CPUSA includes John Anderson, the Citizens Party, the Peace and Freedom Party in California, the Socialist Party, the Workers World Party and others. This collection of so-called independents includes outright representatives of the bourgeoisie, open social democrats, and Trotskyites. The CPUSA concerns itself only with formal independence from the Democratic or Republican parties! All such “independent” parties, according to the CPUSA, represent the “left” in the U.S.!

Mortal Enemy of Revolutionary Marxism-Leninism

There is definitely nothing “new, unusual, non-opportunist, non-careerist” about the election work of the CPUSA. It follows down the same revisionist road it has charted for nearly half a century on such matters. The CP certainly does not utilize the election apparatus of the capitalist class to educate the workers in the need for class struggle and socialist revolution.

Modern revisionism, as Enver Hoxha pointed out in “Eurocommunism is Anti-Communism”, has its source in the hegemonic policies and strength of U.S. imperialism after World War II. While the tactics of Browderism, Khrushchevite revisionism, Titoism, Eurocommunism or Mao Tsetung Thought may vary, they pursue the same counter-revolutionary strategy and objectives, designed to maintain the rule of world imperialism.

Typical of all modern revisionism, the CPUSA’s “People Before Profits” campaign denies the historic mission of the working class to overthrow capitalism and establish socialism. It rejects the historical experience of Marxism-Leninism regarding the imperialist state, elections and the role of the Marxist-Leninist party. The democracy advocated by the CPUSA is the democracy offered by Soviet tanks in Afghanistan.

Though the CPUSA has not attained anything in the U.S. comparable to the Eurocommunist parties of Europe, the struggle against modern revisionism remains a central battle of the revolutionary war. Today, this battle must be actively fought against the revisionist Gus Hall/ Angela Davis ticket.

No Vote November 4th! Reject the Imperialist Policies of the Reformists and Revisionists!