Convention Discussion: Gramsci and the mass party

BY: Brian| June 4, 2014

Submitted by Brian, Connecticut

The struggle against the extreme right is more important than ever for the United States.  What was a Tea Party faction has now infiltrated the Republican Party as a whole.  One look at the recent Republican Primaries which some have hailed as a defeat of the extreme right is actually quite the reverse.  The “establishment Republicans” have for the most part taken extreme right positions arguing that they can do it better than the Tea Party because of their experience.  We are seeing a major shift in American politics.  

Our Party has kept its focus on the extreme right.  We should also keep in mind that there are historical insights to keep in mind.  One in particular has been the rise of the ultra left with the rise of the extreme right.  It was a major error in the ’20s when major Communist Parties decided to move in the direction of the ultra left refusing to build the broad coalition necessary to defeat the extreme right and the rise of fascism.  Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks took this to heart as he was the General Secretary of the Italian Communist Party.  

One of the major tasks to defeat the extreme right according to Gramsci was to build the mass Communist Party.  Despite a highly conscious trade union leadership willing to take advanced action, the Party and trade union movement was isolated by the rest of Italian Society.  Therefore, the need for the mass Communist Party that could defend the trade union movement from all sectors of Italian society.  The Party would still be working class led but achieving a moral position in society that would attract other elements of Italian society – working class hegemony.  

The key to building the mass Communist Party was the “organic intellectual.”  That is comrades who are the most exploited and oppressed and live the daily and family life of the most exploited and oppressed.  They understand the party position and can explain it in the daily context of those around them.  Gramsci called them the true harbingers of socialism.  Gramsci argued that the coalition against the extreme right would not progress with spontaneity – the belief that people will automatically choose a strategy that would look at the balance of forces as opposed to engaging in self defeating moral outrage.  In fact, the bourgeoisie helps through its dominance to shape a response to themselves by indirectly encouraging a blind outrage reaction.  

Our party has always moved in this direction of “organic intellectuals” when we speak of composition.  Gramsci always placed this sector of the population as the key to the mass party.  We have tried in CT to follow this guideline with solid results.  We have found that for many in the trade union movement and in progressive politics it has been the tipping point for their admiration of the CT party and in several critical cases their joining of our party in CT.  

From this experience we have seen the broad coalition in CT against the extreme right bringing our party close to them and viewed as a valuable fighter against the extreme right and for democracy.  Several top trade union leaders in CT have said we are important to the movement because they need “a Left Flank.”  There are other similar examples elsewhere in the country. It would be unfortunate to be distracted from these examples of party growth and influence in the struggle.

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.

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


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