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Carl Davis

An Analysis of the CP Oppositionists

The Fantastic Nature of the Fight
in American Stalinist Ranks

(28 April 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 17, 28 April 1947, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

The letter from a former member of the Communist Party, U.S.A., printed on this page, reflects one of the healthier manifestations of opposition to the Stalinist degeneration of a formerly revolutionary party. Unfortunately this reaction is somewhat exceptional, for the wave of opposition which emerged in the CP during the Browder fiasco was largely confined, to narrow national criticism from a left Stalinist point of view: Narrow national criticism, because the members of the CP who were led to voice their dissatisfaction with their party by Duclos’ public and surprise attack on the “beloved leader” believe that the situation in the American CP is unique in the world Stalinist movement. A left Stalinist point of view, because we are dealing with groups of people who represent a stew compounded of “third period” radicalism, some revolutionary traditions of the old Comintern, and the theories of nationalist Stalinist revisionism.

We have previously written several articles on the struggle in the CP and its periphery which dealt with the San Franciscan opposition and the New York National Committee for Publications, which issues NCP reports. The inability of these groups to understand the cause for their separation from the Communist Party led them into the contradictory position of advocating a new communist party, a Marxist Party, based on the principles of Marx, Engels, Lenin and their apostate, Stalin. The statements of Bruce Minton and Ruth McKenney, and the longer declaration by William F. Dunne, one of the most degenerated and unprincipled leaders of the CP, all began with the same premise.

Now a new group, located in the Bronx, has begun its public activities with the issuance of a “Marxist Monthly,” which ironically enough they call the Spark after Lenin’s famous Iskra. Ironic, because the little magazine has nothing in common with the old revolutionary paper of that great group of internationalists who founded the Russian Marxist movement.

A Good Sign, But –

Let their be no misunderstanding here: the manifestation of struggle inside the CP and the splits that have occurred are a good sign – they show cracks in the monolithic structure of American Stalinism. Every revolutionary socialist should welcome this fact and do everything possible to widen these cracks. But to act as a catalytic agent in hastening the decomposition of Stalinism requires, in the first place, clarity. Without that these groupings will become barriers in the struggle against the most reactionary force in the labor movement. We hope to be able to exert a healthy revolutionary influence upon those whose purpose in their struggle is a genuine desire to reconstruct an internationalist movement based on the ideas of Marxism. Thus far, however, they are far off the track.

We have indicated above that the views of these groups are similar in their narrow, national limitedness, and their espobsal of a new party based on the teachings of Stalin. The references to Stalin and his theoretical contributions are ritualistic; they are like incantations evoked to terrify the leaders of the official CP, and to gain for their exponents a certain “legal” standing. Thus, Stalin is referred to repeatedly as authority, no matter what the difference is that they have with the CP, no matter what idea they propose shall form a cornerstone of the new party.

The criticisms of the opportunism of the CP is vigorous and at times quite incisive. But they write of the CP as though its course were something unique in the world Stalinist movement. They cite Browder’s support to Roosevelt, the “imperialist” theories of the CP, its advocacy of the no-strike pledge, incentive pay, and denigration of the struggle for socialism. And this is treated purely as a national phenomenon. These opportunists appear to be unaware that the line of the CP was and is today identical with that of Pollit and the British CP, Thorez and the French CP, Togliatti and the Italian CP. If Browder’s policies in the United States were opportunistic, what must be said of Togliatti’s line in Italy which was recently crowned by the support the CP gave to re-establishing Catholicism as the state religion of the country to be supported by state funds?

If these new groups were to think the problem through, they could not escape the obvious conclusion that there was and is a continuity of policy in all the Communist parties of the world, a deadly uniformity in their practice. All the Communist parties of the world supported their capitalist-imperialist governments. All the Communist parties advocated a strengthening of their respective ruling classes. All of them were and are smeared from the same brush of opportunism.

Why and how did this happen? What role did the Comintern in Moscow play in this situation? How was this related to the demands and direction of the Stalin regime? It is apparent from the writings of these oppositionists, that they fear tó extend their thinking logically and to answer these questions. They prefer to confine their thinking and analysis to America and to regard what has happened to them as an exceptional phenomenon. To extend their thinking and criticism beyond the borders of the United States would shatter the illusions they have about the “revolutionary” character of their sister organizations. Yet without this extension, it is hopeless to think that these people will ever discover what is wrong.

How Combat Ignorance

Appalled by the terrible theoretical and political ignorance of the American Stalinist movement, they call for a return to a study of the principles of Marxism. We hope that this study is made by these people and we hope that it is serious and extended. For then, and only then, will they find the roots of the present degeneration of the Stalinist-Communist movement in its theory of “building socialism in a single country.” They will learn that the theory, contrary to everything taught by Marxism, was the cause for the degeneration of the whole movement. If they pursue their studies of Lenin they will begin to understand too what is wrong with Russian society today, how little it conforms to the Marxist concept of a workers’ state and of socialism. Once these ex-CPers discover the source of the great degeneration of Stalinism in its theoretical revision of Marxism, they will make progress in their present blind attempt to return to the road of revolutionary thinking and practice.

The new groups have not yet asked themselves why it is that an American Communist Party which once gave such great promise and hope has become an utterly sterile organization whose strength rests only upon the power infused into it by the Russian Stalinists and their international agents.

They have not yet asked themselves what happened to the whole revolutionary generation in Russia which made the revolution and which led the workers’ state through the days of its most perilous existence. They have not yet thought out why the present police regime wiped out this great generation of Marxist theorists, politicians and organizers. They still believe on the basis of their miseducation in Stalinist theory, that men like Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bucharin, Piatkov, were counter-revolutionaries who planned to destroy the revolution even in the days in which they were making it!

Break the Russian Myth

Can such confusion help to reconstruct a movement? Hardly! A pitiful understanding of theory, politics and history leads Spark to approve of current Russian imperialist conduct. It rejects what it calls “Trotskyism, American imperialist and social democratic” opposition to the United Nations Organization! How is it possible for intelligent people to make such an amalgam? Almost every man in the street knows today that the UN is an arena in which the diplomatic struggle of the imperialists are fought out. Almost every man in the street knows that American imperialism supports the UN and for the same reasons that Russia supports it: it is the arena in which they make public their positions and endeavor to organize their respective alliances. And at least every conscious worker knows that the social democracy supports American imperialism in the UN and is for the UN for that reason, just as he knows that the Trotskyists are opposed to the UN for revolutionary internationalist reasons in the same way that Lenin and the Bolsheviks opposed the League of Nations.

But like the Stalinists, the present CP oppositionists begin from the same premise: Russia is the land of socialism; every worker must therefore support every policy of Russia. Because they are still Stalinists, the CP oppositionists find themselves fundamentally in the CP camp. As a result their criticism must in many ways be purely carping. Often it is picayune.

The hope for the development of these groupings in a distinctly revolutionary socialist direction lies in their liberation from the anti-socialist doctrines of Stalinism. If means that they must discard the anti-Marxist theory that it is possible to build a “socialist society in one country”; it means that they must discard the most deadly of illusions that Russia represents socialism and is the example that must be followed in all countries. It means that they must get a good dosing of revolutionary internationalist theory in order to understand the origin, development and continuity of Russian and world Stalinism and its relation to the fall of the once mighty Communist International.

If they do not achieve this liberation, then they will continue their hopeless, sectarian criticism of the present CP and ’will never understand why, despite the trenchancy of this criticism of its opportunism, it remains the party of Stalinism in America, supported to the hilt by its Russian masters.

One of the big stumbling blocks in this development of the opposition is that such a liberation will destroy their comfortable illusions, and the terrible traditions which weigh heavily upon them. Thus, they think a return to the political orgies of the third period is a return to Bolshevism!

Despite their antipathy to Trotskyism, which grows out of their ignorance of its theories and practice, despite their apparent ignorance of the truly great ideas and traditions of Marxism and Bolshevism, we shall try from the outside to exert some influence upon them in the hope of aiding their development toward genuine revolutionary socialist internationalism. If they cannot break with their tainted past, its thinking and its practice, we will merely have seen a slight tempest in a teapot of people who sought a revolutionary way out of the crisis in the political movement of the working class but who had their feet too deep in the mire to escape it and tread a new road toward the future. In other articles we shall detail the reasons for their inadequacies.

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