Don’t be duped- Struggle against left and right opportunism

BY:Kevah| May 24, 2024
Don’t be duped- Struggle against left and right opportunism


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

In every period of the great socialist cause there has been opportunism. It lurks in every corner, in every shadow, in every epoch of the communist struggle. In the general low period of anti-intellectualism and party rebuilding, opportunism has the greatest strength. It can infect and sabotage the party, the entire movement even, if left unchallenged by a firm party center with the correct theoretical line. So, comrades, what can be done to avoid being duped by the left and the right opportunist tendencies that present as mirages for the party members?

Firstly, identify the threat of opportunism. On their own, isolated, and disconnected, opportunists may not seem so much of a threat. But this is very much mistaken. The simple exchange commodity contains within it the “cell” of bourgeois society, and even the smallest, most isolated opportunist, can burn through a party if untouched without struggle.

Secondly, start local. At every level there are left and right factions, all the way from the smallest club. Leadership committees should take care to develop the ideological foundations of their clubs and districts to prevent opportunism from developing. Do not let the general membership flounder without education, encourage them to attend webinars, to read Marxist-Leninist theoretical work, and to engage in party and mass organizations. Take particular care in developing new comrades who show aptitude in certain areas. Members who treat the club as a social club, who are not engaged in party work, tend to drift toward what appears to be “more fulfilling” ideas, in the case of left opportunism, and toward apathy and reformism in the case of the right.

Thirdly, learn to recognize the general trends of each branch of opportunism! What are the general trends in the modern movement? First one should examine the left most trend in the current development of the CPUSA:

Left opportunism manifests itself in several ways in stages and degrees. In its more extreme form it can take the shape of Maoism, other ultra-left tendencies, or anarchism. The left faction often overestimates the revolutionary conditions and leads comrades into adventurism without any care of objective conditions. They mistake spontaneity with the movement, and the movement with the revolution.  This left opportunism can be excessively class-erasing, possibly ignoring the class struggle almost entirely for other struggles. Left opportunism might over-identify groups of the western working class as being full labor aristocrats without any revolutionary possibility, or succumb to the most liberal definition of identity politics (of which, this is not against identity politics, I will touch again on this topic when dealing with the right). They may totally disavow united or popular front tactics, unintentionally mystify social relations or try to modify the historical materialist method with semi-Marxist writings. They often overemphasize the relations of production over the productive forces and in many cases do not place as much importance as developing influence in places like unions, PTA boards, or other places of working class organizing at the current moment. Some favor more lumpen elements. There can be a tendency to pan-leftist unity, including foolish alignment with non-Marxist forces such as anarchists.

In many cases, these comrades are genuine revolutionaries. Oftentimes, the solution to left opportunism is in further education and party work, and not a total struggle against wrong ideas. In those cases where the left trend is too strong, too ultra-leftist, it can be one of the gravest threats the party can face.

Now, the general trends of right opportunism in the current movement and development of the CPUSA. Right opportunism expresses itself in a few different manifestations with the same reformist content. First, within the communist party itself is what we can call Webbism, and outside the party, the social democrats, and general reformist tendencies. All three have certain particulars, but share a universal essence. They do not believe in proletarian revolution! Each believes that “fixing” capitalism through reform is the only way to socialism. This right trend almost entirely ignores imperialism (Sam Webb forbade the word from being used in publication). This trend can advocate the Democratic Party as the tool for power, and not a strategic tactic. Their only plan is more voting drives, economism (they hold the foolish belief unions are the panacea to capitalism). At its leftmost, they still believe in some class struggle, ignoring identity politics for total class reductionism.

In the party they preach Marxism, but practice Webbism. Comrade Sims was correct for leading the struggle against Webbism from the party and placing the CPUSA on a path to rebuild through struggle. Right opportunists open the door for the liquidation of Marxism-Leninism itself, which almost occurred in our party’s history very recently. Over-emphasis on America as exceptional, a lack of faith in the workers, the belief that only harm reduction can ever be achieved, perhaps giving lip service to a revolution somewhere down the line. If the left tendency worships spontaneity as harbingers of revolution, the right tendency denies revolution altogether. At best they tail spontaneity, see the Popular Front stratagem as permanent, they are too forgiving of Democrats, oftentimes sounding like DNC propagandists. Some right opportunists disavow actually-existing socialism and the role of theory, focusing on a nebulous ideal of “practice” (how many times have you heard to just “touch grass?”). This practice is obsessed with only working in unions, churches, or the Democratic Party. It is the building of influence without a purpose, for banal “worker-ism” and not our communist aims.

While left opportunists often reveal themselves quickly, and in many cases exit the party on their own accord, right opportunists are more insidious, burrowing deep in many places and presenting their opportunist ideals as the “real movement” and “real Marxism.”

All comrades, having read this article, should now feel more confident in waging struggle against both trends of opportunism, and won’t get suckered or played by these trends.  Let us build the party center together, and develop our Marxist-Leninist party into the vanguard party.


    Kevah is a club officer in Austin, TX

Related Articles

For democracy. For equality. For socialism. For a sustainable future and a world that puts people before profits. Join the Communist Party USA today.

Join Now

We are a political party of the working class, for the working class, with no corporate sponsors or billionaire backers. Join the generations of workers whose generosity and solidarity sustains the fight for justice.

Donate Now

CPUSA Mailbag

If you have any questions related to CPUSA, you can ask our experts
  • QHow does the CPUSA feel about the current American foreign...
  • AThanks for a great question, Conlan.  CPUSA stands for peace and international solidarity, and has a long history of involvement...
Read More
Ask a question
See all Answer