On Criticisms From The ‘Left’

BY:Danny Rubin| June 23, 2005


We are now winding up one of the more fruitful pre-Convention discussion periods. The publication of the Draft Main Political Resolution and the Draft Program early in the discussion period was a significant factor in its productivity. My observation of the NY District-wide meeting of about 60 comrades on the Program and of the District Convention with 90 participants and what I have heard about the country-wide discussions and conventions, with a few exceptions, demonstrate unity of the membership and leadership around our policies, activities and the general direction of the draft documents. As we hoped and expected there are quite a few proposals for how to strengthen these documents still more, most of which I hope the Convention approves. While I am a member of the pre-Convention Program Committee, the opinions below are my own and have not been discussed in the Committee.

A small scattering of members around the country expressed similar but not identical differences with the direction of the Party leadership. This has occurred through resolutions of one club in each of two districts and a resolution of a small district, a PWW discussion article by Comrades Tillow, Godwin and Kenny, a long document by Comrades Keeran and Kenny and 5 resolutions submitted to his club by Comrade Kenny along with a comparison of differences, that was not endorsed by the club. I believe all of these have appeared on our discussion website. The similarities include 1) important issues that should be discussed; 2) Most have serious misstatements of fact particularly about what the Draft Program does and does not contain; (3) All but the resolutions from an Illinois club use sweeping characterizations about the Draft and about the direction of the national leadership in general, and the PWW article about Comrade Sam Webb’s positions in particular.

Before discussing the content of real differences, it should be said sweeping characterizations with Marxist curse words is an obstacle to real discussion of differences. What is needed is argument and evidence if the aim is to convince rather than brand and isolate without concern for Party unity.

A healthy Party active in mass struggles will always have some tendencies both to the left and right away from a sound Marxist- Leninist position. The problem is to use methods of comradely exchange, education, and debate such as our discussion of strategy, so that differences do not get hardened, do not come to dominate the Party and do not lead to factionalism and division. Our Party and the world movement, including through the statement of the 12 ruling Parties in 1957 and the 81 Party Conference statement in 1961 said it was necessary at all times to resist both right and left tendencies, with the emphasis against the stronger tendency to avoid one-sidedness and swinging.

Mistakes of Fact

In these documents there are misstatements of fact about the content of the Draft Program, apparently as a result of the most subjective, strained interpretations or just contrary to the clear words. Anyone who has read the Draft and rereads it will see how prejudiced many of the interpretations are. The Program calls twice on page 26 for strong affirmative action measures everywhere and also for compensatory treatment. It calls for white working people to play a leading role in fighting racism and for equality. In a parallel formulation on women’s equality and against sexism and the role of men, it specifically mentions within labor and all peoples organizations. Over and over it characterizes the struggle as one for full actual equality and against racism and makes clear that unity within the working class and people’s movement can only be on the basis of such equality. We updated our language from ‘Negro liberation’ to that of African American freedom through full political, economic, social and cultural equality and against racism some years ago. (See below on ‘centrality’, etc.)

For another example, one document claims to compare our old Program with the Draft by approvingly noting eighteen references to ‘class struggle’ in the old Program. However, a word search of the Draft Program shows twenty-two references, not counting section titles. But this is not Marxist discussion but rather silly scholasticism.

When the Draft characterizes the ultra-right and the Bush Administration as based on the domination by the most reactionary sector of the transnational monopolies and something qualitatively new, and discusses the economic and political reasons for its emergence, that is compared with the other sector of monopoly dominant during the Carter and Clinton Administrations. It makes no applies and oranges comparison with earlier periods of reactionary forces in U.S. history as to which was ‘worst’, whether the slave holders, the 1936 fascist danger in the US, McCarthyism, etc. nowhere does the Draft say there is a ‘good’ sector of monopoly capital, nowhere does it propose that labor and its allies and our Party ‘cede’ leadership to any sector, nowhere does it say we should limit our work to support for Democratic candidates nor to electoral struggle only. These caricatures exist only in the minds of the critics.

Several critics claim the Draft abandons the ‘vanguard’ role of the Party. The question of what is a sound Marxist-Leninist understanding of the vanguard role will be discussed under major differences below. Here it should be noted the word ‘vanguard’ was replaced by ‘leading’ role in all nine Party program editions since World War II, including this one, because ‘vanguard’ was easily misunderstood and not easily properly understood. The Draft says, ‘We recognize that victory relies not on slogans or gimmicks or conspiracies but on the understanding of millions won in hard struggles over real issues, on understanding that grows into full class consciousness and socialist consciousness. Such consciousness cannot develop as a result of spontaneous struggle alone, but must be combined with explicitly Marxist-Leninist organization and education, tested and proved in struggle.’ (p.30, col.2)

‘The leadership role in the struggle for socialism is not proclaimed but can only be won by millions of working people gaining direct experience with a Communist Party, with its deeds, and with its application of theory to real struggles. A Communist Party must win this respect anew at every step of the struggle.’ (P.30, col.1) The actual words of the Draft show no downgrading of the importance of the Party or its leading role, no ‘abandonment’ of our fight to win movements to class struggle positions.

The critics would give you the impression the only mention of democratic centralism is to criticize it. In 18 lines of type on page 31, democratic centralism is presented as one of the necessary characteristics of a Communist Party and why. After saying in the past the Party has sometimes too rigidly and dogmatically interpreted it, the Draft then praises how the Party presently applies it. The Draft’s statement in favor of democratic centralism is as strong as it is in any of the prior nine editions.

The charge is made of downgrading Marxism-Leninism by not keeping a chapter on Marxism-Leninism that was present in the prior Program. Without reading the Draft you would not realize the section on the Party describes Marxism-Leninism as a necessary characteristic of a Communist Party and the ideology that most corresponds to the interests of the working class. It then uses Lenin’s description of the three component parts of Marxism, namely 1) its philosophy of dialectical and historical materialism; 2) the political economy of capitalism, both of which Lenin called sciences containing laws and theories and; 3) the theory of socialist revolution, which embraces the theory of strategy and tactics and is both science and art, and the theory of the Party of the new type.

The separate chapter which is an essay on Marxism-Leninism was put into the 1981 Program and its two subsequent editions but appears nowhere else in the six prior programs of our Party, nor in the three programs during Lenin’s leadership in Russia or the two programs associated with Marx and Engels’ leadership, the Communist Manifesto and the Erfurt Program. It belongs in an Introduction to Marxism, a textbook on the Fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism or a separate pamphlet on What is Marxism-Leninism. All the editions prior to the last Program deal with Marxism-Leninism the way the Draft does, not as a separate chapter essay on the subject.

In addition the previous Program chapter on Marxism-Leninism defines it incorrectly, not as Lenin did, but as Stalin did. Stalin calls all of Marxism-Leninism science. That means all of the theory of socialist revolution is a matter of law and science. There is no room for tactics that reflect experience, skill, trial and error. They are all scientific and correct or incorrect in which case they reflect bourgeois or petty bourgeois ideology and interests and are counter to Marxist-Leninist science. Then if you have a cult of personality built around you and you are the infallible continuer of Lenin, all your pronouncements on all issues, including tactics are Marxist-Leninist, scientific, and represent the interests of the working class. Any disagreement is anti- Marxist-Leninist and enemy ideology. This was the theoretical justification for Stalin’s repressions against hundreds of thousands of good Communists. This concept of Marxism-Leninism and the theory of strategy and tactics is corrected along with many other of Stalin’s theories and practical policies in the 1960 Soviet text, Fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism, of which Otto Kuusinen, the co-worker of Lenin and old Bolshevik, was editor-in-chief.

If you read Lenin’s extensive writings on what a Program is and should and should not contain, such as Our Programme 1899, CW Vol.4, pp.210-211 and A Draft Program of Our Party, Vol.4, pp.235, 236 and you learn that a program should start from an examination of the main features of capitalist development to that point and the main features of the world balance of forces, not in its detailed momentary features, but its basic prolonged features, and the strategy – including strategic forces, its main stages, to working class power and socialism. That is what our Draft does.

It does not include assessments of the present level of the various struggles and movements or of the Party and its work. That is for a political resolution or report on the work of the Party. It is not a list of demands. That is an electoral platform or for agitation. This is a basic program (formerly spelled ‘Programme.’) It is not a textbook on Marxism or a pamphlet on what the Communist Party is and stands for. It is a strategic guide for a long period of time. It should not have facts or statistics that will be quickly dated. But a Communist Party must have a Program to guide its concrete work.

Among the criticisms raised are that the world balance of forces estimate does not include one of the Communist Parties and of our Party. There is a broad estimate of slow leftward movement including in relation to Communist Parties with exceptions. But it is not the place of our Party and especially in its basic Program to give concrete estimates of ideological and political trends in the other Parties. The Political Resolution and/or the Convention Report is the place to estimate our own Party currently, not in the Program. As to analysis of the economic and political system of capitalism, especially in the US, the Program does that and with more depth than the critics suggest. See ‘Present Features of Capitalism’, p.9 and ‘2.Capitalism, Exploitation & Oppression’pp.4, 5, 6 up to ‘World Balance of Forces.’ As with all sections of the Draft, concrete suggestions for strengthening and improving the final text are welcome.

It is true the concept of the ‘general crisis of capitalism’ is not discussed. That would require a separate discussion in the Party and in the world movement. There are very few parties in the world who continue to speak of it. I gave a report that was approved by the National Board and was published in PA as ‘Triple- Layered Crisis in 1976. Much of what it said I would stand by today but the world movement’s concept of general crisis and my discussion of a new, fourth stage, of that crisis proved far off the mark and did not prepare us for the US and world capitalism widening the gap with the socialist world economically and for the collapse of the socialist countries.

The very words ‘general crisis’ allow for momentary stabilization of capitalism here or there and even momentary set-backs for the progressive forces here and there. But socialism in the Soviet Union was ‘irreversible..’ But a theory that the crisis of capitalism in all respects – politically, economically, ideologically would deepen through three stages that were irreversible was a big oversimplification that misled us. When I wrote the report I researched Lenin on he subject and was surprised to learn Lenin never used that concept. He spoke of the epoch of wars and revolution, of the epoch of the world-wide transition from capitalism to socialism being ushered in by the Russian Revolution. It is certainly true that capitalism can not end its basic contradictions, that it can only partially and temporarily overcome them and that in the most basic sense they get deeper and stabilization is only a relative term. But much more has to be discussed before we can deal with this area in a program. It is not enough to redeclare the old formulas, as if memorization could be substituted for analysis of changed conditions.

The charge is made that ideological struggle is omitted and especially against class collaboration, social democracy and social reformism. The general criticism is not true. For example, on p.10, col.2 the Draft points out the class struggle is in the realm of ideology as well as politics and economics, ‘between social and political ideas and values that justify the political and economic policies of the contending classes.’ Again and again the Draft calls for struggle to defeat ruling class ideology such as racism, male supremacy, jingoism, US national chauvinism, anti-gay ideology and for proletarian internationalist ideology and the ideology of class consciousness and unity. ‘We recognize victory relies…on the understanding of millions won in hard struggles over real issues. an understanding that grows into full class consciousness and socialist consciousness. Such consciousness cannot develop as a result of spontaneous struggle alone, but must be combined with explicitly Marxist-Leninist organization and education, tested and proved in struggle.’ (p.30,col.1-p.31, col.1)

As to an estimate of the current expressions of class collaborationism, right social democracy, social reformism, petty bourgeois radicalism, ultra-leftism in the mass movements or internal weaknesses that move in a right opportunist, right revisionist, right sectarian or left sectarian, left opportunist, left revisionist, dogmatic, or doctrinaire direction, as argued previously that is not the provence of a Program but rather of a Political Resolution or Political Report, since it is ever-changing and would quickly date a Program. I believe the Party would benefit by a new discussion on what each of these is and their current expressions in mass movements and within the Party and how to deal with them so that it benefits the mass movement and the Party rather than converting us into a self-destructive sect.

The Areas of Clear-cut Differences.

The Ultra-Right Struggle As A Stage of Struggle The major difference between the Draft and the last, 1981 adopted Program is that Program does not deal with the ultra-right at all, since it was very early in its emergence and long before the 2000 elections when it was fully developed. It is not possible and totally wrong to go back to that Program and just ‘update ‘ recent developments. That would be to deny there is a new strategic balance of forces in our country requiring a new strategic stage of struggle. That is hiding a basic disagreement that not only concerns estimate of the balance of forces and strategic goal and line but also the role of our Party and Marxist methodology.

Some of what Comrade Kenny calls the ‘Marxist-Leninist mainstream core of the Party’ agrees defeating the ultra-right is of great importance. Yet they criticize the only strategic policy and tactics capable of accomplishing that. The Leninist role of the Party and how that is exercised is involved. Lenin defined the role of the Party as that of guiding (or ‘leading’, according to translation) the class struggle of the working class, the ultimate objective of which is taking power to construct socialism. (Our Programme, 1899) That was a statement of the universal role of a Communist Party that had to have a particular application in each country and in each strategic stage. In Two Tactics 1905, Lenin defined the democratic stage as the stage they were in that lasted until the February Revolution of 1917, when the stage changed to that of seeking working class revolution, the power of the working class in alliance with the poor peasantry to construct socialism.

Lenin also discussed the issue of temporary allies. ‘The more powerful enemy can be vanquished only by exerting the utmost effort and by the most thorough, careful, attentive, skilful and obligatory use of even the smallest, rift between the enemies, any conflict of interests among the bourgeoisie of the various countries and among the various groups or types of bourgeoisie within the various countries, and also by taking advantage of any, even the smallest, opportunity of winning a mass ally, even though this ally is temporary, vacillating, unstable, unreliable and conditional. Those who have not proved in practice, over a fairly considerable period of time and in fairly varied political situations, their ability to apply this truth in practice have not yet learned to help the revolutionary class in its struggle to emancipate all toiling humanity from the exploiters. And this applies equally to the period before and after the proletariat has won political power.’ ‘Left-Wing’ Communism CW Vol.31, pp.70-71

It was not the role of the Communists themselves to make the revolution. Only the working class could lead it in conjunction with its allies. The Party was to be a part of the working class but its most advanced sector. For Lenin, the Party carries out its leading role through propaganda (for socialism), agitation (for the next stage of the struggle – in our case the anti-monopoly stage) and by playing a leading role in the current level of being able to organize truly mass action and struggle of the millions. He pointed out a Party needs to engage in activity at all three levels all the time but the most important level that must receive the most attention he repeatedly emphasized is the mass action level. This is one of the Marxist principles of tactics.

Lenin wrote, ‘Revolution is impossible without a change in the views of the majority of the working class, a change brought about by the political experience of the masses, never by propaganda alone.’ ‘Left Wing’ Communism, CW Vol 31, p.84

Those who speak of defeating the ultra-right but do not accept the Party’s strategic and tactical line on this question raise several questions. Some say there is no significant difference between the two sectors of the transnational monopolies. They ‘only’ differ on how best to exploit the working class and pursue imperialist objectives internationally. Belittling these differences runs counter to the Lenin quote above and to world experience and our own. It was the argument against the united and poplar fronts that there was no ‘fundamental’ difference between fascist big bourgeoisie and the anti-fascist section. For the working class, the nationally and racially oppressed, women, youth, gays and lesbians, etc. the difference between willing to go along with mass demands for protection of social security, for keeping affirmative action, a right to choose, etc. is a hell of a difference even if it is still within a capitalist framework. And opposing using war as a first choice, as in Iraq, rather than a last alternative is a big difference. To note such differences is not to cede leadership, but to take full account of reality.

They also question whether building the necessary alliance to defeat the ultra-right is really the role of the Communist Party and in the Comrade Tillow, et al article in the PWW, there is the sneering at being ‘cheerleaders for labor’ and viewing coalition building as the leading role of the Party.

For some the question is whether the ultra-right can receive a major setback with a Democratic Party candidate like a Kerry rather than it requiring a Nader. Why stop with Nader? Why not argue there is not enough difference between Bush and a Democrat or even a Nader. A socialist or Communist is needed to defeat Bush! But that reveals the notion that progress is made primarily by propaganda and agitation, discussion of ideas from the sideline, rather than by participating in the mass struggles that millions are presently prepared to make.

Our participation building unity to defeat the ultra-right is a complex process. Widening united struggle requires much hard work, leadership by example, joining in door-to-door work. It requires ideas and initiatives as to who and how to involve ever wider strata concentrating on labor, the racially and nationally oppressed, women and youth (the core allies) and other forces. It means struggling against the concrete views that limit building the necessary unity – passivity due to defeatism or ready to cut deals on the basis that is all that can be accomplished, reflections of anti-union, racist, male supremist ideology that hinder unity, petty bourgeois radicalism that argues there is no difference, etc.

Helping build such unity is not a passive sit-on-the-sidelines activity. It is the exercise of the leading role of the Party in the current strategic stage. It goes hand-in-hand with propaganda for socialism and agitation that help build the Party itself, which also is a part of its leading role today (and always).

A stage of struggle is not created out of the imagination of the Communists. It is a reflection of objective reality and how we properly respond to it. The strategic goal, strategic enemy and strategic alliance for that goal in a given period is the answer to the question, what is the next possible qualitative change in the balance of forces, the winning of which will weaken the capitalist class as a whole and strengthen the position of the working class and its allies? Winning of the strategic goal will open up the prospects of mass action by the millions for a more advanced strategic goal that will further shift the balance of forces. Our conclusion is rendering a major rebuff to the ultra-right is the necessary strategic goal at this stage of struggle.

Building the broadest possible all people’s front led by labor in close alliance with its foremost potential allies, the African American people and the Mexican American people and the other racially and nationally oppressed, women and youth, will decide the issue and permit moving on to more advanced strategic goals. And it is clear that objective can only be won around a candidate of the Democratic Party in the period ahead. It is not primarily a matter of a necessary temporary alliance with the more reasonable section of transnational monopolies, it is first and foremost an estimate of whether our multi-national, male/female working class and the other core social forces and other allies can be brought into mass action of the millions in any alternative way in this period. That may be because they correctly see important differences for their lives, they have illusions in the Democratic leadership, or they consider it not the preferred path but the only realistic path or a combination. It remains a fact that even though the Democratic Party no longer has a grass roots organization in most places, still defeat of the ultra-right has to be achieved in and through the orbit of the Democratic Party, while building forms of independence mainly within that orbit.

There is additional evidence in the materials, of a wrong concept of the ‘vanguard role’ of the Party. Comrade Kenny discusses the danger of a split in the labor movement and concludes the answer is ‘the Communist Party.’ It is not clear from his resolution on labor unity how he reaches that conclusion. It is clear no matter what we do, alone we could not accomplish that. Even if our policy is completely sound and we work with many others in a proper united front style without many more members than we have in the unions contemplating leaving and in the rest of the AFL-CIO, it is doubtful we could be the decisive factor, even though we can now make an important and special contribution. To pose the question that way and also repeatedly pose the necessity for the Party to seek to become the ‘vanguard’ of the working class, it is doubtful we will ever become the accepted leader of the working class and all working people.

If we carry out the role of the Party in content and manner discussed, we can expect that over an extended period of time the result will be our becoming the or an accepted leader and remain so as long as we continue to play such a role on a daily basis. Communist conceit or arrogance and notions of the infallibility of Marxism-Leninism and a Communist Party rather than Communist modesty and performance are necessary. A Party as small as ours in a country such as ours can not be the leading Party no matter how sound its ideology, its theory, its strategy and tactics and practical activity. It may be the most advanced and consistent in these other respects if it is modest and can learn from the masses of workers and from others generally and can do all these things consistently, but there are no guarantees. But if it will continue to be such a Party over an extended period, it will not entirely depend on us but also on objective developments and what others do, before leadership in fact of the working class and working people could result, as we become a mass Party in size and character.

Such a process requires maturity in which becoming the elected leadership of union and other mass movements is subordinated to the basic strategic and tactical role of the Party in the various stages of the struggle, not an end in itself. Sometimes it will strengthen the fight for the given strategic goal and alliance to be so elected. Sometimes the election of a broad left coalition in which there are Communists will be preferable and sometimes a progressive slate which Communists help bring about and support but does not yet contain any Communists. Sometimes we advise that a single communist in a mass organization not accept election to a position because that would be so demanding in time or requiring of security that they are unable to play a role in recruiting more communists. Some years ago we had examples where Communists single- mindedly sought office in mass movements not in the context of our broad strategy and tactics. We were accused of seeking to ‘capture’ leadership and we and the progressive forces suffered reverses. We also have had examples of reluctance to accept election to leadership where it was justified and fit the over-all situation.

We have also properly said that without the contributions of a Communist Party with respect to Marxist analysis of the economic and political developments, of the necessary strategy and tactics and its relationship to the working class and all working people when the time comes to resolve the issue of power to be able to construct socialism, it is hard to see how it can be accomplished without us. We used to say it was impossible without the Communist Party having acquired the leadership of the revolutionary process. But then we saw examples of more than one organization playing a leading role in coalition. In Cuba, the July 26 Movement and the Popular Socialist Party (the first Communist Party) both played a leading role. There was a growing Marxist current within the July 26 Movement. A process of merger soon began that was not completed until 1975 when the present Communist Party was formed.

In the GDR, the Socialist Unity Party arose from a merger of the Communist Party and the Left Socialist Party and there were other parties there and in most of the socialist countries most of which played a leading role for socialism among different strata of the population with significant differences as well as common positions. Some opposed going further or as fast on public ownership of various industries and actually represented sections of the former ruling classes.

All of this demonstrates the same necessities are at work but they exert themselves only through the nationally particular, through historical chance. The formulations in the Program previously cited conform to this Marxist-Leninist approach and not to lifeless formulas of prior times. It is likely at this distance that we will have a multi-Party socialism and other party(s) also playing a leading role together with a necessary leading role by ours in the construction of socialism whether for a short time or an extended time. What is certain is it can not be done without a Marxist-Leninist Party playing a leading role.

Class Struggle, Democratic Struggle, Etc.

Several of the documents charge the Draft makes the class struggle and the democratic struggle identical and thereby undermines the class struggle. They also charge democracy is treated in a classless way. Also, the draft is alleged to see the revolutionary change from monopoly capitalism to working people’s power led by the working class as simply a matter of increasing the left vote. The Draft says ‘the class struggle and the democratic struggle are closely linked. They overlap and intertwine. (p.11, col. 2) It then points out how they intertwine and how they are not identical. ‘On the eve of socialism, the class struggle reaches its decisive turning point and goes beyond the limits of the democratic struggle under capitalism. The victory of socialism will open a new stage in the continued development of democracy, this time planned and guaranteed.’ Thus the aim of the class struggle is power and construction of socialism, whereas the aim of the democratic struggle under capitalism is spelled out to be enlargement and protection of the ability of working people in general to have an ever greater say over all aspects of their lives in their interests. It also points out the democratic struggle includes all such struggles whether of the working class alone or other class and social forces at the expense of the capitalist class or a section of it. The class struggle proper in itself pits the working class or a part of it against the capitalist class or a part of it and only secondarily involves other class and social forces. Yet in a broader sense, the democratic struggle is the way the class struggle advances as it shifts the relationship of forces steadily by weakening the capitalist class and strengthening the working class’ positions.

It is wrong to pose one against the other in any way as they mutually strengthen each other. Lenin began using the concept of the democratic struggle to characterize the nature of the overall process in 1897 and especially by the Revolution of 1905, all the way to the February 1917 Revolution,alongside emphasizing the role of the working class and the class struggle. Since World War II our Party’s history on this is checkered. At first we used ‘democratic struggle’ coupling it as ‘bourgeois democratic.’ Then we realized that even though the economic system was capitalism, and the political system was bourgeois democratic we understood that the democratic struggle weakened not strengthened the bourgeoisie and it weakened all or a section of the capitalist class who opposed those democratic struggles. We also took note of the fact Lenin similarly spoke of the democratic struggle even though he knew they were not on the eve of the working class revolution. The result was the first post-war Program in 1954 that stressed the democratic struggle.

As indicated the draft saw socialism as representing a qualitative change in relation to the struggle to expand democracy because of the class nature of socialist society. Yet, there was some continuity with the struggle under capitalism of the democratic struggle. Lenin defined ‘democracy’ irregardless of social system as having common properties – it was rule of the majority. He then showed how democracy under capitalism in the most democratic state had inherent limitations. Under socialism it was qualitatively more advanced. The Draft makes clear the struggle given our history to expand and defend democracy, who was for it and who against it and thus makes clear the fundamental importance of the democratic struggle and its limitations under capitalism. My judgement is this is the content of the Draft on the relationship of the class struggle and democratic struggle. However, it could be made a little clearer in the Draft.

The entire quote of the last sentence of the section, ‘The struggle to defend and enlarge democracy is therefore the only path to socialism in our country – any other path will fail and is politically indefensible’ is offered as evidence of a departure from Marxism-Leninism. This is presented as evidence we see only increasing votes of the left as the path to socialism. Originally I had suggested the following quote from Lenin to make the same point, ‘Whoever wants to reach socialism by any other path than that of political democracy, will inevitably arrive at conclusions that are absurd and reactionary both in the economic and political sense.’ Two Tactics, 1905 CW Vol.9, p.29. The above paraphrase was substituted. Therefore, the disagreement of the critics is not with the Draft but with Lenin.

The struggle for democracy does not deal with the forms of such struggle but rather its content. It can be legislative, electoral, by all kinds of mass demonstrations and actions, peaceful or non- peaceful, civil disobedience or combinations so long as they are mass and appropriate to the situation. In fact, the Draft does not make the matter of gaining working people’s power led by the working class to build socialism simply a matter of votes of a people’s party or anti-monopoly government. ‘The struggle for a program of demands to radically curb the power of the transnationals will take place both through a people’s party and through non-electoral forms at all levels – shop, grassroots forms and neighborhood, city state and national coalitions.’ P.25, col.1.

‘The wider and deeper the unity of he anti-monopoly coalition, the more the working class and its key allies lead it, the stronger the Left and socialist-oriented sector of it are; the bigger and more influential a mass Communist Party, the more the power of the transnationals will be curbed by radical measures, which will make easier, surer and less painful the move to the next stage of social struggle, the socialist phase of U.S. history. ‘The more these things are accomplished, the more likely it is that a transition can be accomplished without the capitalists being able to use violence to block the building of socialism….it is possible to win a peaceful transition to socialism…One of the major reasons for such confidence is that the working people’s anti-monopoly coalition can be built on an even broader basis than the coalition against the ultra-right. It will involve an overwhelming majority of people who have learned from their experience of struggle that capitalism cannot be reformed, cannot overcome its basic anti-human qualities…Capitalism will always be based on economic exploitation. Therefore. even though the coalition of working people’s power and for socialism will not include any section of the capitalist class, it can be broader and deeper than all previous political coalitions of the working class and its allies.’ (p.25, col.2)

At page 27, col. 2, ‘This revolutionary majority based on mass people’s organizations and political parties, could make it politically impossible for the former ruling class to return to power or use the military to impose a return to power.’

We have no illusions that the capitalist class will shrink from any method to prevent their dispossession or to overthrow the socialist revolution. The issue is what they will be able to do. Marx, Engels and Lenin did not make revolution synonymous with armed struggle. They all sought a peaceful transition and examined the conditions under which it would be possible. They made clear this was their preferred path. During the Smith Act trials we argued that revolution and violence were not the same and Marxists sought such change without violence. As late as September 29, 1917, Lenin wrote, ‘Only an alliance of the Bolsheviks with the Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, only an immediate transfer of power to the Soviets would make civil war in Russia impossible, for a civil war begun by the bourgeoisie against such an alliance, against the Soviets of Workers, Soldiers, and Peasants Deputies is inconceivable; such a ‘war’ would not last even until the first battle.’ The Russian Revolution & Civil War, CW Vol.26, pp.36-37

How much greater the possibility today given the tremendous growth of the working class and working people as compared to the big capitalists and that there likely will be no outside interference. It is also likely that the desire to prevent usage of today’s weaponry in one’s back yard will lead to much greater preparation and assurance that the capitalist class is divided and unable to launch such violence before the decision on who holds power is sought.

The Bill of Rights & Related Issues

All nine editions of our Program from March 1954 on have contained favorable references to the Bill of Rights in the section on socialism where we deal with democratic rights. In all, including the present Draft we say we will build on the Bill of Rights and expand and strengthen democracy under socialism. In all we also acknowledge the great weaknesses of democracy under capitalism and how we had to struggle against the ruling circles for the Bill of Rights, against slavery and for full equality and against racism (13, 14, 15 Constitutional Amendments, etc.) and for the right of women to vote (19th Amendment), etc. When Gus Hall initiated the phrase ‘Bill of Rights Socialism’ his purpose was, as he explained at the time, to ensure our people we would not do away with but rather would enlarge and build on what they consider the symbol of democratic rights that have been won. He certainly was not saying all was well with democratic rights or denying they were under attack in our country. Nor was he saying the US will have a democratic form of socialism whereas all the socialist countries so far have not. That is reading things into the phrase that are not intended and are not there. At the same time, it is undeniable, our world movement has both some big positives and some big negatives on its record with respect to democracy. There was what Stalin perpetrated. Mao and some others did likewise. We can and have to do better than those examples. But that is not being discussed or referred to when we use the phrase.

The idea of our stepping aside if we are defeated at the polls is considered by some as class betrayal. First, the Draft says if we make serious mistakes and lose the confidence of the people. What replaces us may be a coalition that is still dominated by honest socialists and may include different Communist personalities. But it also may be a government that proposes some major retreat or reversal of socialism toward capitalism. It is hard to imagine any one winning on a platform of open espousal of capitalism. The Draft says that earlier private capital will have been removed from the electoral process and the media will no longer be dominated by the big capitalists. We will work to establish a real level playing field much earlier.

So we are saying in the very unlikely situation of such errors being made and such loss of confidence and in a level playing field election, if a Party of return to capitalism wins we will abide by the verdict of the people. If we did not, we would become widely condemned and lose even more support that would make more difficult regaining the support necessary to maintain or return to governmental power. On what principle, can we go before the people in our country and say we ask you to elect us in free and fair elections and demand the capitalists abide by the outcome but if later we lose we will not leave power because we know better that socialism is superior to capitalism. It is not a defensible position that certainly we will be asked about prior to our achieving leadership of the country.

It is an indefensible position and one that is unnecessary to take. This is especially true when we consider we will not face the situation Russia faced soon after 1917 of the 14 major imperialist powers invading to restore capitalism.

Whether the advocacy of a return to capitalism would be permitted is in part a matter of all the surrounding circumstances. If it were combined with actions of preparing a coup or armed insurrection, which in all present countries is outlawed, and undoubtedly would continue to be in a socialist USA,the answer would probably be ‘no.’ But unaccompanied by such illegal activity or external threat of restoration, the answer would probably be ‘yes.’ Most of our Programs have not taken a position on this specific, including the four editions since 1970. I was the one to propose its inclusion in the 1970 Program. I was young and more prone to make immature leftist mistakes. I see no reason to get into the discussion above in the text of a Program as to whether and when yes or no at this distance, just to prove our ‘Marxist- Leninist bona fides’ when in fact it may prove the opposite. The details of the winning of power, of the construction of socialism, can’t be decided ahistorically, in advance. They will be part of the concrete reality of the struggle at the time.

African American Equality

Once you take out of the picture the misstatements of fact about what is in and not in the present Draft, I believe this Draft does not represent any weakening of the fight for African American equality and against racism compared to the last Program, if anything it is a little stronger. But like all other provisions of the Program, there is always the possibility of additional ideas that would strengthen it still more, and such suggestions are welcome.

At the 17th Convention in December 1959, a resolution was adopted on the centrality of the struggle for African American equality and against racism to the entire struggle for democracy and progress in our country. It was meant to define the role and importance after the previous convention in 1957 withdrew the analysis that the African American people in the Black Belt of the South constituted an oppressed nation that had a right to self-determination that could be exercised through any measure they chose including withdrawal from the United States and creation of their own country.

The centrality concept was kept in our documents through the 1980 Program. But the succeeding Program a year later weakened that to being ‘heart’ of the struggle. ‘Centrality’ was not used again after Comrade Hall opened his Convention Report that was approved in 1987 by saying the working class and class struggle were ‘central.’

It would be useful for there to be a full discussion in the Party of the importance and role of the struggle for African American equality and against racism. How does the struggle relate to the role of the class struggle, to the struggle for peace as the ‘overriding issue of our times’ and to the role of the struggle of Latinos in general and Mexican Americans in particular for equality and against racism?

The 1970 Program pledged that racist propaganda would be outlawed in a socialist US. In the Draft we call for strong anti-hate crime legislation which I understood to include such speech, marking of African American churches and much more. But I see no problem with making that explicit.

Finally, Comrades Keeran and Kenny challenge the Draft on the assessment of the world balance of forces. They think it underestimates the setback of the fall of the Soviet Union and thereby is too optimistic on the present balance. That is reinforced by the notion the differences of countries like France, Germany, Russia, Belgium, etc. only reflect inter-imperialist conflicting interests. Rereading ‘The World Balance of Forces’, pp.6,7, it is hard to see how that underestimates what a blow the loss of the Soviet Union and the other countries was to all progressive forces and struggles in the world. On the other hand,they underestimate the process of slow movement forward recently, more rapid in Latin America, discussed at p.8 and 9. This is partly because they fail to see additional factors behind the differences between a whole number of imperialist powers with the Bush policies in addition to conflicting particular imperialist interests. These include the fact that the people of their countries overwhelmingly oppose the war against Iraq and the aggressive Bush policies in general. But also these countries find use of military force up front with no constraint rather than as a last resort is not in their interests and highly dangerous. This is a difference of great importance for the peoples of the world and parallels the difference within the ranks of the different sectors of the US transnationals.

I also suspect that their different estimate of the world situation follows from a belief that like the Communist Party, USA they believe many or most of the Parties in the world are off in a right opportunist direction. I am not prepared to accept such an assessment and I do not believe our Program is the place to deal with that issue.

Thus in addition to errors of fact about the content of the Draft, in my judgment where there are real differences it is the self-styled (by Comrade Kenny) ‘Marxist-Leninist mainstream core of the Party’ that departs from Marxist-Leninist theory and sound Communist strategy and tactics. More troubling than that we have differences is the tone of the criticism which resorts to sweeping characterizations of the Draft Program and Resolution, of the Chair of the Party, Comrade Webb and by implication of the leadership in general. Criticisms and differences are certainly in order but let’s use argument and evidence not invective and sweeping characterization.


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