Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Marxist-Leninist Party

Revisionist CPUSA holds fast to the mistakes of the 7th Congress of the CI

First Published:The Workers’ Advocate Vol. 15, No. 8, August 5, 1985.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Our modern day revisionists have for some time been making use of the Seventh Congress of the Communist International to justify their current liquidationist policy. This month marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Seventh Comintern Congress, and it comes as no surprise that the revisionists of the CPUSA have seized on this event to decorate their current liquidationist course with theoretical tinsel from the Seventh Congress.

In the May issue of its theoretical journal, Political Affairs, the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) carries an article entitled, “In the Perspective of History, Seventh Congress of the Comintern,” written by Jim West, who was a delegate to the Seventh Congress and who is currently the chairman of the Central Review Commission of the CPUSA. The article gushes with enthusiasm over the “new strategic policy” of the Seventh Congress and its new view of united front tactics. The West article goes on to emphasize that the Seventh World Congress “exert[s] a powerful influence on the course of development to this day.” And it concludes that the so-called “All-People’s Front Against Reaganism” of today’s CPUSA is based on the policy of the Seventh Congress.

Unfortunately, West is right in these assessments. The Seventh Congress did mark a new and different general line from the previous congresses of the Communist International and the version of united front tactics it elaborated does form the basis for the liquidationist policy of the CPUSA today.

The Communist International had a glorious history. At a time when social-democracy had collapsed into the arms of the bourgeoisie, it rallied the advanced revolutionary workers, formed them into fighting parties in the different countries, and step by step led them through both storms of revolutionary struggle and periods of stagnation, always deepening their revolutionary convictions and their ties with the working masses. Through its history the Communist International had based itself on Leninism. Over the years, to firmly root the parties among the masses and help them win the masses to communism, it elaborated the Leninist united front tactics. But the Seventh Congress overthrew this heritage. In the name of building “united fronts” and ”popular fronts,” the Seventh Congress took up the policies which had been denounced by the first six congresses of the Comintern and began tearing down the great work that the world communist movement had built up.

No wonder the CPUSA is so enthusiastic. Today the leaders of the CPUSA are corrupt revisionists who spit on true communism. The CPUSA has degraded the revolutionary united front tactics of Lenin into an appeal for a liberal-labor coalition with the bourgeois liberals, the union bureaucrats, the bourgeois sellouts from the oppressed nationality communities, the social-democrats, and the entire swamp centered on the Democratic Party. They call this an “all-people’s front against Reaganism.” But it does not unite the proletariat against the capitalists’ and their parties, nor does it rally the working masses to the side of the proletariat, nor does it organize the fight against Reaganite reaction. It is actually liquidationism, an attempt to stamp out the independent organization and struggle of the working class.

Under one name or another, the Maoists, Trotskyites, and other pro-Soviet revisionists are following this same sellout policy. The Jim West article tries to prove that the current liquidationist course is a brilliant fighting strategy because it is based on the policy of the Seventh Congress of the Comintern. But instead, what the article reveals is that the Seventh Congress adopted a profoundly mistaken policy which has provided one of the basis for the revisionist liquidationism that plagues the revolutionary movement today.

A Turn in the Strategy of the Communist International

West confirms the fact that the Seventh Congress changed the orientation from the previous congresses of the Comintern and provided a new general line for the world communist movement.

At the time of the Seventh Congress, Georgi Dimitrov, who presided over the congress and presented its main report, stressed that, “Ours has been a Congress of a new tactical orientation for the Communist International.” (Speech Delivered at the Close of the Seventh World Congress of the Cl, emphasis as in original)

West draws this point out emphasizing that, “The final world gathering of the Communist International produced a new strategic policy arising from the changed alignment of class forces in the world and the sharpened contradictions of monopoly capitalism.” (emphasis added)

What was this “new” strategy? West discusses a series of issues including the appeal for unity with the social- democrats and trade union bureaucracy, the call for unity with the liberal bourgeoisie, the change to “peace” as the central slogan for the struggle against war, the reconciliation with the national reformists in the national liberation movement, and so forth.

Obviously this was not just some tinkering with a few tactics to deal with changes in the objective situation. It was, as West suggests, a “new strategic policy,” a fundamental change in the general line from the previous congresses of the world communist movement. (For a detailed analysis of the Seventh Congress’ backward turn in the general line of the world communist movement see the articles in the May 1, 1985 issue of The Workers’ Advocate Supplement.)

Unity With the Liberal Bourgeoisie in the Name of “Winning the Middle Strata”

Let us take just one example of what the content of this “new strategic policy” amounted to. In future articles we will deal with other issues raised by West. But here let us discuss only the call for unity with the liberal bourgeoisie.

West begins his explanation of the Seventh Congress policy by painting up the liberal bourgeoisie as being in the “middle strata” and then whitewashes it as being a significant force in the fight against fascism.

He pontificates, “The Congress stressed that fascism menaced not only the Soviet Union, Communists and other adherents of socialism, but all who stood for democracy, peace and social progress. Accordingly, it pointed up the need to win the middle strata to anti-fascism, expose the social and nationalistic demagogy of fascism to prevent it from gaining a mass base in the middle strata.” (emphasis added)

All fine and well. Certainly the working class must rally to its side as much as possible of the working people, urban petty bourgeoisie and toiling peasantry. But this is not what West is speaking of when he talks about “winning the middle strata.” Rather he is talking about the” liberal bourgeoisie. West makes this clear when he proclaims I that, “In the United States, the Communist Party projected a policy of democratic front of all anti-fascist forces, which included critical support of some of President Roosevelt’s policies.” (emphasis added)

Roosevelt was a representative of the liberal bourgeoisie and the head of the capitalist Democratic Party. He was put into office by the entire capitalist class in order to head off the rising workers’ movement with sweet promises of reform. Support for Roosevelt meant, in fact, blunting the edge of the class struggle and subordinating the working class in a liberal-labor coalition with the Democrats. But West portrays this policy as building “the broadest unity,” “win(ning) the middle strata to anti-fascism” and so forth.

West’s arguments are actually the same as those provided by Dimitrov at the Seventh Congress. The parties of the liberal bourgeoisie were misrepresented as peasant or urban petty- bourgeois parties. And the term “popular front,” or alliance of the working masses, was misused as a euphemism for alliance with the liberal bourgeoisie. Dimitrov’s stress on the need for the popular front was actually an appeal for the need for unity with the bourgeois liberals at all costs.

Painting Up the Liberal Bourgeoisie as Anti-Fascist Fighters in the Name of “Utilizing Contradictions” Among the Bourgeoisie

While dressing the liberal bourgeoisie in the clothing of the “middle strata,” West also argues that the popular front policy was based on utilizing contradictions among the bourgeoisie.

West declares that the analysis of the Seventh Congress “made possible the recognition and utilization of the contradictions between fascism and bourgeois democracy. They provided the theoretical basis for developing the broadest unity of all anti-fascist and non-fascist forces against the chief enemy.” And thus, West gushes, for uniting “all anti-fascist forces” including President Roosevelt.

Now of course it is necessary to draw a distinction between the bourgeois liberals and bourgeois reaction. And frequently special tactics are required to handle the bourgeois liberals. But it is quite another thing to prettify the bourgeois liberals as anti-fascist fighters and to dress their parties up as parties of the working masses. But this is precisely what West supports in the Seventh Congress policy. He forgets the dirty role of the liberal bourgeoisie in fascizing the state, and he covers over the fact that the liberal bourgeoisie dreads the revolutionary initiative of the workers more than it disagrees with the fascists. Some liberal bourgeois parties may oppose the outright fascists to this or that extent, but the more consistent and more revolutionary the mass struggle against fascism, the closer the liberal bourgeoisie, as a class grouping of the exploiters, is to recoiling in horror and going over to reaction.

The “New Strategic Policy” Led to Browderite Revisionism and the Liquidation of the CPUSA

What were the results of this policy? West tries to paint the glowing picture that the Seventh Congress “spurred the constructive work of the U.S. communists,” heightened “building the broadest coalition movements,” “gave a tremendous stimulus to the drive to organize the unorganized,” and so forth. But West conveniently forgets the fact that it was after the Seventh Congress that Browderite revisionism arose in the CPUSA and that the party was eventually liquidated outright.

Before the Seventh Congress, the CPUSA was gradually building up its strength: leading the unemployed movement, strikes, the fight against the national oppression of the black people, and the anti-imperialist struggles. It initially fought vigorously against Roosevelt and the union bureaucrats, who were traipsing at his tail, and for the development of the independent movement of the working class. But after the Seventh Congress this struggle was toned down and the CPUSA increasingly fell into the position of the left wing of the Rooseveltian liberal-labor coalition.

It was under the signboard of the Seventh Congress and its new version of united front tactics that Browder developed his revisionism and corroded the revolutionary policy of the CPUSA. Browder first liquidated the independent, revolutionary mass organizations and then the party organizations themselves for the sake of accommodation with the top union hacks, the social- democrats, and the politicians of the liberal bourgeoisie generally. At the same time, Browder defined and redefined the united front on a “broader and broader” basis. Originally the united front was of the working class, and its allies, against the capitalists. But Browder distorted the united front to a coalition of a section of the labor bureaucracy with the left wing of the Democratic Party. He went on to include the whole union bureaucracy, the liberals of both the Democratic and Republican Parties, and he even extended his embrace to the National Association of Manufacturers and to J.P. Morgan himself. In 1944, Browder liquidated the CPUSA itself, replacing it with what he called an “educational” association, to prove to the capitalists that he was really committed to “national unity.”

These facts demonstrate the danger of following the “new strategic policy” of the Seventh Congress. And so West skirts them without even a mention. He prefers to create the myth of the forward march of “broad coalitions” to justify the present policy of the CPUSA.

The “All-People’s Front Against Reaganism” Today

From the supposed grandeurs of what the CP wrought in the past under the policy of the Seventh Congress, West turns to the application of the line of the Seventh Congress today. He explains that, “It is in full awareness of the need to take the kind of initiative that Dimitrov spoke of and to forestall any ultra-rightist or phony left attempt to mislead and abort real movement toward an anti-monopoly party that the CPUSA takes the lead in projecting and helping to build the All-People’s Front against Reaganism....”

The fight against Reaganite reaction is an essential struggle. And, as our Party has pointed out repeatedly, it must be organized as a struggle of class against class. Reagan was put in power by the capitalists as a whole. His offensive against the working masses is an offensive in the interests of the capitalists as a class. And that is why it has received the support of the liberals of the Democratic Party as well as the backing of the reactionary Dixiecrats and Republicans.

But the CPUSA is so imbued with liberal-labor politics that it cannot even conceive of speaking out against the reactionaries without first getting the okay from the bourgeois liberals. Now, as in the mid-1930’s, the CPUSA’s conception of the people’s front is nothing more nor less than seeking out a section of monopoly capital to get in bed with and throwing their support behind the Democratic Party liberals, no matter how far towards reaction they have gone.

Henry Winston, the national chairman of the CPUSA, explained the meaning of their “all people’s front” earlier this year. He states, “At the extraordinary conference of the Communist Party, USA in Milwaukee two years ago, the tactic of the all-people’s front to defeat Reagan and Reaganism was developed....In the course of things there have been those who have not understood this tactic. Some concluded that instead of an anti-Reagan front, a call should be issued for unity on the basis of what they call ’a more advanced position.’...But consider those important forces, even within the ranks of monopoly capital, which, for whatever particular class motivation, nevertheless are against nuclear war, against confrontation, for negotiation. Should they be given over to the hands of the military-industrial complex? Why should such an illogical surrender be made?” (Political Affairs, Jan. 1985)

The only thing illogical here is the illusion that the military-industrial complex is anything other than a creature of the monopoly capitalists or that some section of monopoly capital is really interested in fighting against the Reaganite policies such as nuclear warmongering.

Earlier, during the presidential election campaign, Gus Hall drew out the political significance of this search for unity with a section of monopoly capital. Hall argues that, “within the overall task of unifying the forces of the all people’s front, it is necessary to pay special attention to the issues and forms that will unite and bring together the supporters of Mondale and the supporters of Jackson.” (Political Affairs, July, 1984) In other words, what is of special importance to the CPUSA is not the uniting of the workers and exploited masses generally in a fighting front against Reaganite reaction, but instead how to develop support for the Democratic Party politicians and how to keep the Democratic Party united. And the CPUSA is willing to sell out any and every interest of the working masses for the goal of finding a place in the Democratic Party up to and including support for Mondale who ran for the presidency on an essentially Reaganite platform of rabid imperialist warmongering and takebacks against the masses.

Such is the sellout nature of the CP’s so-called “all-people’s front against Reaganism,” and such is the essential nature of the liquidationism that is the present day curse on the revolutionary movement.

Still, the CP’s theorizing is useful. It shows us not only the corrosive policy which we must fight against today, but also its historical theoretical justification. It verifies that our fight against modern day liquidationism requires us to criticize the profoundly erroneous tactics of the Seventh Congress. It proves to us that if we are to build up the independent forces of the working class, and if we are to steadfastly advance on the revolutionary road, then we must fight even harder to defend the revolutionary theory of Leninism and uphold revolutionary traditions of the Comintern, which the Seventh Congress turned its back on.