Convention Discussion: Our tasks for the Convention

BY: Sam Webb| April 23, 2014

Submitted by Sam Webb, National Chair, CPUSA

Traveling around the country over the past few months, I’m asked on occasion what to expect at the convention in Chicago. My answer goes something like this.

At the coming convention, our task, while having fun, breaking bread, and catching up with old and meeting new friends, is adjust and fine tune our long range and short term strategic and tactical policies to today’s realities; we should – and will – focus on struggles and social movements that are strategic to fundamentally recasting the politics, economics, and popular thinking of our country; and of course, we will give our attention to the many sided building of a fully engaged 21st century party – not least of which is the further expansion of the online readership of the Peoples World; if it is not obvious, let me be clear: what I am saying, as I said in my recent submission to the convention discussion, is that we don’t need a radical makeover of our program, policies, or party, but some corrections, some new thinking, some new initiatives, some shift in emphasis, and a dash or two more of dialectics.

Whatever mistakes – and mistakes are inevitable – we have made, we haven’t made big mistakes, that is, mistakes of a strategic nature, like some others on the left have and a few in our party have advocated. Neither impatience with the process of change, nor revving up the revolutionary phrase, nor foreswearing any connection to “bourgeois politics” or politicians will get us a flea hop closer to socialism. It may make us feel good, but the main purpose of political engagement from our perspective isn’t therapeutic; it isn’t about feeling “revolutionary” or showing off one’s “radical pedigree.” It’s about making a difference in people’s lives, about leaving a footprint on the political process, about soberly analyzing and reordering the balance of forces in the direction of radical democracy and eventually a socialism that is deeply democratic, egalitarian, sustainable, and economically efficient – and, of course. embedded in an economy owned, controlled, and organized by working people and their communities.

It’s also about the further building of a communist party – one that is modern, mature, and visionary; one that is much larger in size; one that possesses leadership depth and breadth; one that is in the thick of struggles against today’s multiple crises, and one that is fully aware of the sensibilities of the American people and mindful of the complexity of the process of social change in the most entrenched and powerful capitalism in the world.

I would like to say that such a process began a decade or more ago. But that wouldn’t be accurate. Actually, it began long ago – in the mid-1930s when our party did an about face at the level of theory, strategy, tactics, images and symbols, vision of socialism, etc. And further changes have been made since then, including discarding the term “dictatorship of the proletariat”  in the 1960s, adjusting our strategic policy in the wake of the 1980 elections, embracing Bill of Rights socialism in the 1990s, and much more.

And it will continue, I’m sure, after I step down in June at our coming convention; this process over the past 14 years, after all, has been collectively discussed, decided, and driven.

There is a lot of buzz around my suggestion that we drop the term Marxism-Leninism for simply Marxism. Not all – and I want to make that clear, but some of the buzz in my view is rooted in emotion, nostalgia, and small universe thinking (making judgements based solely on what sounds good to us and our radical friends, while neglecting any serious consideration of the perceptions and thinking of millions). No one, including me, is proposing that we bury Lenin; to claim otherwise is to substitute preconceived ideas and unsubstantiated claims for a close reading of what I wrote and said over the past 6 months. What I have argued is that we should rescue Lenin from those who would turn his many and varied contributions to theory and practice into a dogmatic and sectarian straightjacket. If anything, as I have said on many occasions, we should study him more, including his methodology, and invoke his name less.

But I would add this. The flurry of back and forth discussion over whether to keep or not to keep the term has rendered invisible to a large degree my main point (and I regret this) which is that our theoretical and analytical work is not what it should be; in fact, it falls far short of what is necessary if we hope to evolve into a major political player in the politics of the U.S. Being “in the fight” is an absolutely necessary condition, if we are to qualitatively gin up our role and influence at this and successive phases of struggle, but it is not enough, and never will be; a modern and mature 21st century communist party has to distinguish itself at the level of ideas as well as practice. Both are crucial and, for that matter, the quality of one depends on the quality of the other.

I hope that this challenge captures the attention of the delegates in Chicago rather than any misguided efforts to “Divide the House” over terminology (and symbols and images); a wiser course is to allow that discussion to continue, and not only in-house, but also with our friends in the people’s movement and beyond, as we (and many others) dig into the practical challenges that tens of millions face now and for the foreseeable future.

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



    Sam Webb is a member of the National Committee of the Communist Paryt USA. He served as the party's national chairperson from 2000 to 2014. Previously he was the state organizer of the Communist Party in Michigan. Earlier, he was active in the labor movement in his home state of Maine.

    He is a public spokesperson for the CPUSA, and travels extensively in the U.S. and abroad, including trips to South Africa, China, Vietnam, and Cuba where he met with leaders of those countries.

    Webb currently resides in New York City, graduated from St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia and received his MA in economics from the University of Connecticut.


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