CPUSA and electoralism

BY:Jesse Sherbourne| May 7, 2024
CPUSA and electoralism


This piece is a contribution to the Pre-Convention Discussion for our 32nd National Convention. During Pre-Convention Discussion, all aspects of the party’s program, strategy, and tactics are up for consideration and debate. The ideas presented here are those of the author or authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Communist Party USA, its membership, or their elected leadership bodies. — Editors

The Communist Party USA was named after the Party of Lenin and the Party of Marx and Engels. Every country around the world has some form of Party that is named after these groups. Some countries have multiple communist parties, all laying claim to that heritage simultaneously. Among leftists the “Communist Party” label is so ubiquitous that many forget that the purpose of a Party is to be political, and so when a new election cycle rolls around, they may be surprised that the Communist Party tells its members to “Vote against fascism.” Many self-identified “communists” complain over a Communist Party telling them to vote and cry “revisionism” and ask, “why aren’t you overthrowing the government?” Never mind that all Communist Parties past and present have engaged in electoralism with the CPSU being the prime example.

The Communist Party is not an organization for people to attach their daydreams and fantasies of revolution and revolt and civil war onto, but a real political organization that desires to advance the goals of working people. We do this in the face of overwhelming odds and our ultimate victory still a long ways off. Being a member of the Communist Party USA thus requires that its members be fiercely determined, resilient and level-headed. We work within all the avenues available to us, and that includes elections. This is not out of a desire to legitimize a system with several issues, but out of a desire to win real concessions for people, to expose the contradictions in the capitalist economic system, and importantly to prevent fascists from getting into office and enacting their agenda.

The agenda of fascists is to maintain capitalism at all costs, destroy organized labor, crush their political opposition, and culturally and ethnically cleanse the country of everything perceived undesirable to them, and to subjugate the people of the world as well. It’s for this reason that the Communist Party correctly calls the Republican Party a party of fascists. They seek to roll back women’s rights, the rights of non-white ethnic groups, workers, trans people and non-heterosexual orientations, etc. etc. Many ultra-leftists might say that all this is already true, but this actually exposes their lack of understanding and clear-sightedness. The organized labor movement has experienced a resurgence, acceptance and tolerance of people of different backgrounds is growing, the desire for peace and justice is at its highest level since the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement. In summary, the progressive movement is building and amassing strength, but this can and very much will all be razed to smithereens and cast into the wind if we confuse our dislike for one party with the party of fascism. In Republican states abortion is being banned, books are being banned, child labor is back on the table, people can murder someone of another race or non-conforming gender without repercussion and even profit for doing so, people can murder protestors. In many places the Republican Party already has a dictatorship on the local and state level, and it is our duty to prevent them from winning power on the national scale. This is indisputable.

However, the policy of voting against fascism is not an open endorsement of the Democratic Party. In the CPUSA constitution it says that all members are required to vote, but doesn’t specify for who or what, simply that we must. As a matter of policy, the CPUSA doesn’t endorse any candidates except our own. This is essential to understanding the goals of the Communist Party. In essence, we do not wish to copy other systems because history tells us that it is impossible to develop one system that works in all cases regardless of culture, economy and material conditions. We believe in a multi-party system as exists in other countries, however where our party is a legitimate political force and plays a leading role. This requires the defeat of fascism and the victory of the progressive movement. It’s not enough to keep fascists out of power; the progressive movement must become strong enough to destroy them and occupy the void in the political sphere in their absence. So, in order to permanently defeat and put down the fascist threat, we must not only keep them out of office, but also run progressives.

We can as a temporary measure elect moderate politicians, but this is nothing more than a stay of execution as they totally reject political authority and fetishize bipartisanship. In short, if Republicans are fascists, then those who desire to work with republicans are fascist sympathizers. A sympathizer need not be a fascist themselves, but they do not offer a way forward and in fact lose electoral races to fascists in elections and move the Overton window to the right. They do this by watering down progressive policy if not outright killing it, working against progressives in primaries, working to get the most revolting fascists elected in their opponents’ primaries, and then collaborating with those fascists under the banner of bipartisanship. We may delay the fascist threat by electing moderates in place of no one else, but they don’t halt the advance of our opponents, and in some cases advance them.

In order for the progressive movement to subvert fascism, it is necessary to break the stranglehold of moderates on the other major political party. This must take place at ALL levels of government. This necessitates that we develop the nascent progressive political forces. Those forces being a way to find suitable progressive candidates for office, methods of fundraising for their campaigns, experts in political organizing such as canvassing and outreach, and the political savvy to outmaneuver their competition and do for elections what John Brown did to Kansas slavers. This requires that communists everywhere not only vote, but volunteer on campaigns and take a leadership role in order to learn the process and its contradictions inside and out so that we can test our strength and ultimately replicate those successes with OUR comrades on the ballot.



    Jesse Sherbourne is co-chair of the Central Pennsylvania Club, CPUSA, and member of Put People First PA.

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