An Open Letter to Comrade Stalin and the Central Committe of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union – from The P.R. Club, CPUSA (Expelled)

First Published: Turning Point Vol. II, No. 5, August 1949
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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We write you about the “bewilderment of American Communists, and the disintegration of their movement.” We ask that, in keeping with the international traditions of our movement, you offer some much needed advice to American Communists.

Toward this end, we attempt to indicate, the reasons for this letter, the essential factor of fraternal intervention in the fight of American Communists for a real Communist Party, and the healthy effect that your advice would have on the confused anti-opportunist struggle and on honest – even if bewildered – American Communists.

We state these ideas to you, in whom we have complete confidence, so that on the basis of your advice, the movement for a real Communist Party in the U.S. can proceed with clear orientation, free of vague hints and conflicting reports and free of the immobilizing mistrust, disillusionment, and cynicism which tend to neutralize so many forward steps.

* * *

The CPUSA, the Communist Party of the last stronghold of world capitalism, occupies the second most strategic, position – for better or for worse – in the world fight between the camp of peace, democracy, and Socialism, and the camp of war and fascism. It is logical to expect the CPSU(B), the Communist Party of the first Socialist country, to be the best in the world – and it is obviously the best. On the other hand, our Party, which has the difficult responsibility of fighting within the stronghold of the1 camp of war and fascism is the worst Communist Party in the world.

Leninism explains that the revolutionary movements of the most imperialist nations are most susceptible to bourgeois ideological infiltration. But, certainly there can be no fatalist acceptance of the inevitability of the degeneration – or even of the consistent mediocrity – of the Communist movement in the U. S. (And yet, many “tired radicals” of our movement do accept this – off the record.) Communists in the toughest situations have to become the toughest. Communists in the most confusing situations have to become the clearest. Hence, only a thinking, studying, mentally brave American comrade can be a real Communist today. He cannot settle for mediocrity; he has to envision an American Party of the highest caliber – a Bolshevik Party.

And yet, the CPUSA is not a Communist Party at all. The degenerating CPUSA leadership cannot sink so low that it cannot sink a little lower. How can the world Communist movement countenance this? Can any factor be more detrimental to the world struggle for peace, democracy, and Socialism than this – that the CPUSA is a Social-Democrat Party led by confirmed opportunists, bureaucrats, and enemy agents? What has been too easily labeled “the tide, of reaction” in the U.S. could more accurately be analyzed as the destructive effects of opportunism on the revolutionary movement. What could more effectively prepare the burial of world reaction than the turning of the tide of revisionism and opportunism in the American Communist movement?

Why, then, is there no criticism of the CPUSA? Various Communist Parties have been criticized recently and with the infamous exception of the Tito renegades, have used the criticism to good advantage. But is there a CP leadership (aside from Tito’s) which deserves denunciation more than that of the CPUSA? Are there any Communists in the world who need advice more desperately than American Communists?

It is an international principle of Marxism-Leninism that brother CP.s concern themselves with each other’s conduct, learn from and accept criticism from each other. At the founding meeting of the Communist Information Bureau, Zhdanov made it clear that lack of contact between CP.s was harmful and should be corrected. It is obviously being corrected; but so far, the CPUSA leadership has successfully avoided such “catastrophes”. An impenetrable immunity appears to protect their betrayals. Since the Duclos article, criticism of the CPUSA appears to be taboo. If real CP.s need the check and correction of fraternal criticism, how much more so does the fake CPUSA leadership need exposing?

There is no doubt in our minds as to the right of fraternal intervention against the wholesale self-destruction of our CPUSA. We have the significant history of the advice of Lenin, Stalin, the Communist International, and lastly, the Duclos article. Since the Duclos article, however, there has been only general ideological advice (e.g. in the C.I.B. organ), but American Communists have strayed too far from Marxism-Leninism to have retained the ability to apply such general advice – when they are allowed by their leaders to read it. True, there have been hints – such as the relative absence of the CPUSA from columns of the CIB organ where news of other Parties abounds. Usually, however, allusions to the CPUSA in the CIB organ have, been misleading and incorrect.

Because of our whole confused history, because of the current ideological and organizational dereliction of our movement, the factor of fraternal guidance becomes an essential and determining one. It was for this reason that one of our comrades wrote to the National Committee of the CPUSA, shortly before his expulsion in 1946, “with the realization of impending criticism from our brother Parties. (It is indicative that “control” comrades Alexander Trachtenberg and George Morris, in the terror of being ideologically “invaded”, tried to determine whether this “realization” was factual or merely hypothetical.) It was for this, reason that in our “SOS to All Communists” In 1946 we stated: “Today, more than ever, the American Party could gain immeasurably from a reconvening of the C.I.” With the formation of the C.I.B. we were elated because we felt that it signaled the beginning of the end of the international immunity of the CPUSA. But, while the CIB organ has made available to us very important documents, it has also presented us with a contradiction we cannot justify: the approval of the present leadership of the CPUSA.

The “realization of impending criticism from our brother Parties” in 1946 was an inaccurate prediction. In reprinting this letter, later, we tried to explain that “This criticism, could not come and won’t come until we in the U.S. achieve the national nucleus of a real Communist movement” (SPARK, Vol. II, No. 3, March 1948). We have repeatedly made this point in our literature. In the “Declaration of TURNING POINT” we said; “As long as we lack an organizational alternative, ideological help from our brother Parties is prevented, because only double confusion would result from a fraternal blast right now, and the membership would have no place to go.” (TURNING POINT, July 1948) We think this was a correct explanation – even if mixed with a well-intentioned attempt to rationalize the absence of fraternal intervention. But, the revolutionary movement in the U.S. would be further advanced today if such intervention had materialized.

However, with the Bering “review” in the CIB organ (6/1/48, No. 11 [14]), we were confronted with what appeared to be CIB approval of the CPUSA leadership. Bering informed us that “the American Communists with a courage worthy of the sons of the working class are resisting firmly the onslaught of reaction.” Finding Bering’s review of this courage (supposedly radiating from Foster, Dennis, and Co.) impossible to justify, we wrote our ̶p;Letter to the CIB.”

Every so often a shocking recurrence confronts us. An-unsigned article, “14th National Convention of the Communist Party of the United States” (8/15/48, No. 16 [19]) stated: “Despite the brutal terror, the influence of the Communist Party is growing.” To American comrades who have watched our Party and its influence shrivel to practically nothing, this is the ridiculous climax of an article which saw through none of the orgies of our fake convention.

In “Political Notes” by Jan Marek (11/15/48, No. 22 [25]) we read a basic error regarding the elections, obviously drawn from the daily drivel of the Daily Worker and offered irresponsibly as a CIB analysis: “But the leaders of the Republican Party – Dewey, Dulles, Vandenberg, Taft and other ardent supporters of the schemes and designs of the big trusts, are heading the onslaught of the imperialist circles against the peoples, against peace and security.” (Our emphasis) This fundamental error, reflecting the CPUSA’s inability to forego the relish of the Democratic Party as the lesser evil, is exactly what harmed the Progressive Party.

The CIB organ reprinted, without analysis, a mixture of excellent and poor statements against war and in defense of the Soviet Union by various CP’s (3/15/49, No. 6 [33]). It merely referred to “similar statements” made by other Parties including the CPUSA.. Certainly, the CPUSA’s statement, which was a cowardly – but masterful – evasion of the defense of the Soviet Union, merited analysis.

An article, “Plenum of U.S. Communist Party National Committee” (5/15/49, No. 10 [31]), referred to the National Committee’s emphasis on the “ideological struggle against all bourgeois reformist and revisionist theories and ideologies” without a word of wonder or criticism. It must have been sheer ignorance of the facts that allowed D. Zaslavsky to state: “And yet, the capitalists of the United States turn pale at the very mention of the Communist Party of their country...” (5/1/49, No. 9 [36]) It would be more appropriate for Zaslavsky to “turn pale” at the very mention of the CPUSA.

We have mentioned only a few “samples”. Actually, there have been no competent articles dealing with the American revolutionary movement, or – to put it more accurately – with the absence of such a movement. The articles that have appeared (Vronsky, Marinin, Bering, Marek, etc.) have been misleading.

But it is too much to have to witness CIB applause, for the conduct of the Foley Square Trial. Jack Bering reappears to exclaim (of what is in fact the most cowardly, pseudo-Marxist debauche in the history of our movement): “...the twelve are fighting back skillfully, courageously, and with the proud dignity of men conscious of the justness of their cause. The accused have become the accusers.” An article by A. Trainin “Democracy Under Trial”, in New Times No. 30 (July 20th, 1949), failed to mention any revision of Marxism-Leninism in the CPUSA’s defense at Foley Square. Trainin, who seems awed by the delicacy of legalities, writes: “This courageous and dignified conduct of the eleven Communist leaders in court, and the documents presented by the defence, demonstrate beyond a doubt that the instigators of the trial are out to wreak political vengeance and destruction on a party that is intimately linked with the people.”

We know that the legality of the CPUSA must be defended, and we expect such defense from our brother Parties. We know that the war-hysteria angle of the Foley Square trial must be exposed. But, we also know that the revisionist sellout of Marxist-Leninist theory taking place at Foley Square in the name of Communism, must he ruthlessly exposed, that there must he a clean division between defense of the CPUSA’s legality and condemnation of the CPUSA leadership’s betrayal of the oppressed all over the world. And yet, brother Parties miss this distinction and fall into the position of apologists for the CPUSA’s conduct. In the worst case, the Bulgarian CP, in the name of Dimitroff (?) hailed, the conduct of the trial! We cannot think that Dimitroff who himself has given the classic example of a Communist on trial, could have been hoodwinked by the CPUSA. Therefore, we are at a loss to explain the message of the Bulgarian CP.

Here is the mockery. The CPUSA leadership fears the CIB, has refused to apply for affiliation, and sabotages the distribution of the CIB organ in the U.S. The expelled comrades and the CP members in contact with them seek the affiliation of our Party to the CIB, and attempt to further, despite great difficulties, the distribution of the CIB organ. Nevertheless, the CPUSA leadership can reprint in the D.W. approval of the CIB for its policies. This approval confuses and demoralizes many of the staunchest supporters of the CIB in the U.S.

* * *

Three years after the first wave of expulsions from the CPUSA, there is still no national nucleus unifying the anti-opportunist movement. Although this is certainly due in part to the shortcomings of all of us who have fought for a real Party, it is due in greater part to the complete wrecking, over a long period of the American Communist movement. It is also due to the isolation in which we have had to work – without the fraternal intervention of our brother Parties. Why haven’t American Communists, who need advice worse than all other Communists in the world put together, received it from the other Parties? This is an inescapable question, one which constantly disturbs American Communists who want a real Communist Party.

We are certain that the confusion and fears of American Communists would clear rapidly if a forthright stand were taken by the international Communist movement regarding the CPUSA, if American Communists were helped ideologically in the rebuilding of what revisionism has destroyed in the U.S.

We are certain that a statement from you, Comrade Stalin, who are the ideological guardian of Marxism-Leninism today, would change the complexion of jaundiced American Communism. We do not know of any consideration of international diplomacy which divests you of the right to analyze the state of the revolutionary movement anywhere in the world. We do not know of any consideration which equals the opportunity to spark the destruction of opportunism in the American Communist movement.

For three years we have witnessed many types of revolts. Every wave of anti-opportunism has reflected excellent opportunities for the development of a national nucleus which could coordinate the efforts of expelled comrades with an anti-opportunist movement within the CPUSA. But, repeatedly, we have watched ideological confusion, lack of confidence and cynicism waste these opportunities.

As a rule, the initial fight of a rank and file comrade, when he finally realizes the facts of life –within the CPUSA, is principled and healthy. But as he begins to take inventory of the confusion, disillusionment, and unprincipled developments around him, he begins to develop “combat fatigue”. He comforts himself with: “I know what’s right, but I’m no leader. Where do I get the confidence to tell the working class one thing while the formal Communist Party tells it the opposite. Who am I to fight for Marxism-Leninism single-handed – I’m no Lenin! My Party comrades are so completely taken-in that I’m simply forced to wait for ’objective conditions’ to ripen. Anyway ‒ who am I to speak up when the foreign Parties don’t speak up!”

The comrade who bestirs himself when he finally realizes the utter destruction of the whole progressive movement ultimately tends to relax himself with the observation: “Don’t the foreign Parties know what the score is in the U.S.– and if they do, why don’t they help us; why doesn’t the CIB or the CPSU criticize the leadership of the American Party?” Finally, under the impact of overseas applause for the ”courageous and dignified” leadership of the CPUSA, he gives up the ghost – and becomes ”tired”. Some comrades have slipped completely and ended with the Trotskyites and Tito.

The confused comrade, who was nevertheless clear enough at a certain point to fight the opportunism of the CPUSA, wonders: if the CPSU(B) could tackle, the Yugoslav mess so boldly, how can it ignore the CPUSA mess so completely, how can it countenance the revisionism that the CPUSA leadership has put so clearly and officially in black and white at Foley Square?

Despite the CPUSA leadership’s studied attempts to sabotage the Party membership’s high opinion of the CPSU, American comrades still have not forgotten the role of the S.U, the CPSU(B), and Stalin. That’s why it is so important for advice to come from you. Not even the tight, ruthless machine of the CPUSA leadership could counteract that.

Originally, there was more organizational than ideological progress in the expelled movement. In the first experiences of the anti-opportunist fight there was a desire for unity of “numbers”, at any ideological cost against the CPUSA leadership. We are still suffering the effects of irresponsible ideas promoted by some groups and individuals in that period. Now, although the main incorrect ideas have been defeated basically (not completely), the organizational lags behind the ideological. To further the ideological at this point, the organizational angle must be advanced. Unfortunately, this advance is dependent upon the intervention of our brother Parties.

The more vocal comrades in the anti-opportunist movement are afraid, to the point of paralysis, to err. They avoid political positions; they avoid orderly polemic. Our movement is plagued by innuendoes, cliquish boycotts, big argument on details and little argument on essentials – the circle spirit at its worst. Some comrades have distilled from their own confusion and lack of confidence the tactic of keeping one’s hands clean for the day of intervention. With such caution they err anyway, and force themselves into off-the-record gossip battle, a tactic learned too well in the CPUSA. In a sense, this Is parallel to the attitude in the CPUSA that one must not be expelled at any cost: better to keep silent completely, better to become inactive, better to sell out the working class – all this just to stay in the Party formally with a membership concept that is truly Menshevik.

We have found that we can counteract wrong ideas and that we can convince comrades of the correct ideas. But this holds only temporarily in most cases, because vulgar pragmatism cries for “success”, and in the absence of obvious, immediate ”success”, American Communists succumb to warped- perspectives, doubletalk, and in general, “combat fatigue.”

* * *

What would be the effect on American Communists of fraternal intervention in the form of advice from Comrade Stalin or the Central Committee of the CPSU(B)? What would happen if they were given an explanation of the ravages of opportunism in their own Party, if they were told what their program and attitude must be, what they should do immediately, and how to do it?

We feel certain that the main effect would be the first big opportunity for the principled unification of those American Communists who, despite numerous disagreements, have at least had the common driving force of fighting against opportunism and for a real CP. On the basis of such advice, comrades could reevaluate their work and their political position – initially, on one simple basis: do I agree with the advice and do I assume responsibility for implementing the advice? (True, some who really disagreed might, for reasons of maneuver, disguise their objections. But this would not basically alter the impact of the advice, if we judged by deeds and not by fancy words alone.)

The question comes up: wouldn’t the CPUSA act according to form in such a case, as it did in the case of the Duclos article? Wouldn’t it again doubletalk, pseudo-self-criticize, and lipserve while it continued to expel and harass anti-opportunist comrades?

The dilemma the CPUSA leadership faces in such advice consists of two alternatives, neither effective: (1) “accept” the advice and perpetrate the fake of the post-Duclos-article period; (2) openly repudiate the advice and switch to an open “anti-Soviet Socialist” position. In the first case, we feel that no maneuver could snow under your advice. No matter to what hypocrisy the CPUSA leadership resorted, its lipservice could not pacify the rank and file this time. It is important to realize that after the Duclos article, there was no history – no reference points – of a wide open anti-opportunist fight. Today, however, there is an alternative – with reference points – in the form of the expelled comrades and those CPUSA members in contact with them. With the materialization of your advice, these comrades could, in an organizational manner, take the initiative in exposing the confusion technique of the CPUSA leadership. In the second case – the CPUSA leadership open rejection of your advice in Titoite style – everything would become crystal clear to the whole membership. The hoax would be over; every honest comrade would revolt.

In the act of hypocrisy, the CPUSA leadership would be underwriting revolt; in the act of open repudiation, it would be destroying the last shred of blind CPUSA membership loyalty to a machine and liberate the American comrades from opportunism. Certainly, there would be great turmoil, but, no matter how great, it would be less than we have now as a daily routine. Most important – out of this turmoil, would quickly come a revolutionary change in the concepts, attitudes, and activity of our comrades. It would be idle speculation to predict more than this, but this is enough: it is the awakening of all sincere American Communists. Fraternal intervention would be the corner-stone of a new confidence – the end of isolation from the world Communist movement.

* * *

So much do the better comrades, from the active to the passive, desire fraternal intervention, that they produce utterly fantastic explanations for its absence. We offer a few.

Speculation – that the CPSU has “written off” the American Party – chalked it up as hopeless. Actually, if we reduce this speculation to its inherent absurdity, we witness a new extension of Marxism-Leninism: the luxurious theory of disdain and unconcern for the weakest link in the world revolutionary movement. Those who so speculate do not understand that it is impossible for the CPSU(B) to “write off” the American revolutionary movement, no matter what its “liability”, because in doing so it would be “writing off” the working class of the most imperialist nation, it would be ignoring the focal balance between the state of the Communist movement in the U.S. and the progress of peace, democracy and Socialism globally. This anti-internationalist invention grows more subtle when it adds a spontaneity amendment whereby the CPSU writes off the American Party only until “objective conditions ripen.”

Speculation – that the CPSU considers it inappropriate to blast the CPUSA leadership while it is under attack at Foley Square from the American bourgeoisie. This speculation ignores the distinction between defending the legality of the CPUSA against the attacks of the bourgeoisie and defending the theoretical foundation of the Communist movement against the attacks of the revisionist CPUSA leaders. Such reasoning, the mainstay of the CPUSA leadership’s objection to any inner-Party criticism, would make It impossible ever to expose opportunism, since the bourgeoisie is always attacking. Comrades who speculate thus forget that the CPUSA suffers more from the internal enemy than from the external one.

Speculation – that the CPSU avoids a showdown with the CPUSA at this point, because it feels that, in retaliation, the CPUSA leadership might jump into the open arms of Tito and give him his first big convert. Who can say that this might not yet happen? We have Titos at the head of our Party. But, what is more important – to allow the CP membership to remain hostages of Titoite leaders and ideas, or to risk the precipitation of a few discredited, ex-Communist Tito champions in the U.S. in exchange for the ideological liberation of American Communists as a whole? Evidently, those who speculate thus underestimate the ability of the CPSU to tackle betrayal and revisionism bluntly and against any temporary odds. They have not learned from the case of Yugoslavia.

Speculation – that CPSU intervention in the thinking of American Communists might trespass on requirements of international diplomacy. This would pose the question bluntly; does the CPSU have the right to influence the thinking of our comrades only historically – via the Short History of the CPSU(B), etc. – or also, currently? We know of no reason for not looking to the CPSU for ideological guidance.

These sample speculations undoubtedly indicate how many more variations exist in the blind alley in which our comrades operate today. These are the speculations of the better comrades. The more backward ones simply conclude that the CPSU supports the ideas of the CPUSA leadership.

* * *

We realize from an inventory of the American Communist movement that without some fraternal help we cannot, for some time to come, produce the caliber of Communist Party that the world situation demands without delay. With your help, the revolutionary movement in our country can be quickly rebuilt.

We cannot recognize the validity of the foregoing speculations; we refuse to consider anti-Soviet-tinged explanations; and we cannot regard our own former explanations as valid today. Whether or not it is the fault of comrades like us that we were not more successful, the fact remains that our brother Parties cannot continue to wait for the production of a real Marxist-Leninist CP in the U.S. because our best comrades cannot do anything better, unfortunately, than wait for your intervention.

We know that certain comrades may think this letter presumptuous: how dare you write to Comrade Stalin; who do you think you are! We have no mystical qualms about writing to any Communist in the world– for a purpose. We are tempted to answer (with political truth if not with accurate social reportage) that Stalin is an old friend of ours.

We write this as an open letter mainly for the technical reason that it is our surest means of getting it to you. Aside from this, there is nothing to hide; the ideas expressed here are the everyday fare of American Communist wondering.

Who are we? We are a small group of expelled members of the CPUSA. We were not leaders. The older of us have been loyal members of the CPUSA for a long time with a consistent record of a principled fight against opportunism and bureaucracy, that goes back ”beyond our fight against Browder’s liquidation of the CPUSA. The incident of the expulsion of our club is generally known to the CP membership, especially in the New York area. We feel the best identification we can offer is the political line of our literature.

In this letter we have not tried to prove any charges against the CPUSA leadership. We have been concerned only with emphasizing, the need for your advice to American Communists. We feel that our literature, since 1946 gives an accurate picture of the results of opportunism in the CPUSA: and the progressive, movement generally. (We are sending you a file of our publications under separate cover. We have no way of knowing with what regularity these have reached you in the past).

* * *

We believe that the international Communist movement should look not only to the history of the CPSU but to the living CPSU for leadership. That is exactly what we are doing. We started our fight on the basis of teaching our Party Club the Short History of the CPSU(B), and after that, not even the high pressure of the-National Committee could dissuade our members from the fight for a real CP. We have continued our fight on the basis of the material in the CIB organ, and in New Times. We have circulated the position of the CPSU and the. S.U. on all questions. Now we feel that the deciding factor is – exactly – the advice of the CPSU.

Perhaps some comrades in the U.S. would contest some of the ideas or formulations in this letter. But we are convinced that there is one point that they would not contest – that the advice of Comrade Stalin, or the CPSU would be warmly welcomed by American Communists. The best American Communists look to the CPSU for guidance and we feel certain that they would with confidence accept the advice offered and unite upon it.

P.R. Club, CPUSA (Expelled)