Convention Discussion: A modest alternative to proposed preamble

BY: | May 29, 2014

Submitted by Teresa Albano, Chicago, IL

The purpose of this alternative preamble to the new draft Constitution is three fold: make it shorter and tighter; focus in on the crux of why the Communist Party exists; address in a unifying and balanced way the many particulars that make up the complexities of class and social struggles, internationally and within the United States.

Most of the alternative wording comes from the draft preamble. But this preamble is 515 words, while the proposed draft preamble comes in at just over 1,400. The Gettysburg Address, perhaps the most powerful, profound and poetic speech made by an American president, is a mere 278 words. The preamble to the U.S. Constitution is only 52 words. The preamble to the Communist Manifesto is 170 words. By those measures, even 515 words to introduce the structure of the CPUSA is still too long.

Like the draft committee’s introductory letter about compromise language, this alternative preamble is a compromise. I considered the idea that some have suggested: to have no preamble – after all, what more needs to be said than: “The following are the rules and structures of the Communist Party of the United States of America”? But considering the fact that CPUSA constitutions have historically contained preambles, and the current discussions in which some consider any proposed change suspicious and laden with nefarious motives, I’m not proposing that we have no preamble.

A preamble does not need to spell out Communist Party policy, program or vision of social and democratic struggles. That is what the party’s program and numerous documents on specific issues do. A preamble should, in my opinion, give the reader a concise lead as to why this organization exists. And hopefully, in language that both resonates and inspires.

The crux of why any Communist, socialist or workers party exists, in my humble opinion, is the existence of capitalism and the emergence of an alternative and better method of human society, which has been dubbed socialism. At the same time, this struggle for socialism does not happen in a vacuum but has specific characteristics of time, place and circumstance. My alternative preamble takes many of those specifics – including some new features like climate change – and stitches them together into a concise, holistic view of the world we are grappling with and hope to change.

Lastly, there are many particulars to the struggle for socialism in the United States that are unique to the American experience. The founding of our Communist Party in 1919 was part and parcel of the radical, revolutionary working-class oriented movements that stretch back to the country’s founding. At the same time the Communist Party comes out of a very specific time in world history – namely the Russian Revolution – and the movement for socialism has international roots. The men considered the “founding fathers,” Marx and Engels, were Germans living in Britain. They published the Manifesto in six European languages: English, French, German, Italian, Flemish and Danish. (Notably missing is Spanish!) Lenin’s contributions to the philosophy and scientific social outlook of Marxism are considerable; in particular his theory of imperialism, the need for a party of a new type, and the role of the state.

However, adding the term “Leninism” to the term “Marxism” was more form than substance. It was used to differentiate the party from other left/ultra-left trends. I personally think it’s a term that is meaningless to the overwhelming majority of activists, and like many other outdated terms, should be cast aside. However, as I understand what the committee tried to do in its compromise wording, I left the explanatory sentence in the preamble. It does tie the term to history.

The draft preamble contains four paragraphs that single out specifically the struggle against racism. Given that the “rosy dawn of capitalism” ushered in the brutal system of chattel slavery and genocide of indigenous and African peoples and racism’s role today, it is understandable why. However the four paragraphs place racism more in a vacuum – apart from other class and social oppression – and therefore isolate this struggle. In so doing, it raises more questions than answers, in my opinion. For example, women’s oppression, which also came about with the origins of private property, the family and the state, has numerous ties to and a dynamism with racial and class oppression. Communists strive to look at the particulars of each, yet also find the commonalities and points of unity as well. The party has a number of documents, reports and articles on race and racial oppression that go in depth and connect the specifics of the struggle with other equality movements. The preamble does not have to go into such depth.

I want to thank the committee for formulating the draft preamble and constitution. It is much harder to create and write than it is to edit and massage this or that phrase or concept. Consider this an edit of the draft – not a rewrite.

Capitalism has cast billions of people around the world into poverty; afflicts humanity with endless wars; institutionalizes racial inequalities and women’s oppression, embedding it into every aspect of society; strips youth of a future; fuels discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender people, religious minorities, immigrants and people with disabilities; pits worker against worker worldwide in a global race to the bottom; allows right-wing and corporate forces to chip away, attack and roll back people’s hard-won democratic rights.

Driven by greed and profit, capitalism has poisoned our land, sea, and air all in order to transfer the wealth of the planet to a handful of multi-billionaires. Because of its insatiable drive for higher rates of profit, capitalist society has so far shown incapable of grappling with the growing catastrophe of climate change.

Capitalism ruins and stunts lives, forever treating people as disposable commodities. It is ncapable not only of guaranteeing basic needs but of providing the basis for every child and adult to develop to their full capacity as human beings.

A better world is necessary. The Communist Party of the United States of America is dedicated to the proposition that a better world is also possible. We see socialism as the next stage in human history, and the next American Revolution in which “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is truly guaranteed to all.

Just as the rule of kings and queens exited the main stage of human history through multiple acts of reason, rebellion and revolution, so too will the reign of the corporate mighty, Wall Street titans and billionaire oligarchs eventually end. Out of capitalism, this new society is in birth: one that invests the socially produced wealth back into public needs from education, health care and housing to recreation, science, arts and culture.

When Karl Marx exposed the inner workings of capitalism and class-based society, he took the dream of socialism out of the realm of utopianism and placed it into the hands of the working class and people of each nation. In the United States, ideas of socialism have been part of the rich soil of American history, democracy, politics and culture. The Communist Party seeks to build upon the legacy of fighters for liberation, of those who fought against slavery, for the right to organize unions, for immigrant and civil rights, for women’s suffrage and reproductive rights, for the rights of gays and lesbians and of the disabled. At the same time Karl Marx, Frederick Engels and Vladimir Lenin gave the movements for socialism the famous slogan: Workers and oppressed of the world, unite! In the 20th century, Communists in the United States and around the world shared a common outlook called Marxism-Leninism. American Communists are enriched by contributions from those around the world in the struggle for workers’ rights, peace, national liberation and socialism. The Communist Party stands on the principles and values of internationalism, solidarity, equality, freedom, nonviolence, economic justice, individual liberty, sustainability, cooperation and community.

Socialism is at the core of the identity of the Communist Party; we proudly bring our vision to the public square.

The views and opinions expressed in the Convention Discussion are those of the author alone. The Communist Party is publishing these views as a service to encourage discussion and debate. Those views do not necessarily reflect the views of the Communist Party, its leading bodies or staff members. The CPUSA Constitution, Program, and all its existing policies remain in effect during the Convention discussion period and during the Convention.

For details about the convention, visit the Convention homepage
To contribute to the discussion, visit the Convention Discussion webpage

30th National Convention, Communist Party USA
Chicago | June 13-15, 2014



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