Convention Discussion: The Communist Party of tomorrow

BY: Michael Leone| June 5, 2014

Submitted by Michael Leone, Houston, TX

There has been a lot of discussion on the ideological commitments of the Communist Party USA, and I am glad to see that comrades across the country recognize this issue and have put a lot of thought into answering the many arising questions. I think it’s no secret by this point that our party is coming out of an identity crisis, and this clash of directions has manifested itself in many areas of discussion, from surface issues like names and symbols to the deepest content of the ideology of our party. As a Young Communist, I have to be humble in putting in my contribution alongside those who have decades of experience in the working class struggle.

Foremost I think it should be brought up that the Communist Party is facing an impending demographics crisis. From my observations, the membership is aging and there doesn’t seem to be much effort into appealing to young people. I personally feel that this is the absolute, number one issue the Communist Party must urgently address, both within local clubs as well as the national leadership. Here in Houston, at every party meeting I’m surrounded by black and white photos of long-dead leaders while a tape old 45s of Woody Guthrie’s greatest hits from the 1930s is playing. And looking at other clubs, the promotional tactics aren’t very different elsewhere. Meanwhile, public opinion polling shows that one out of two Americans under age 30 prefer socialism over capitalism, which is unprecedented in this country’s history. This disconnect between an accelerating rise of socialist consciousness in American youth and an aging Communist Party demographic must be resolved.

Also problematic is a reactionary tendency within the party to vehemently promote the image of the Soviet Union and icons of past socialist movements in the 20th century. Just as Marx and Engels analyzed the rise and demise of the Paris Commune, modern socialists should deeply analyze the legacy of the USSR and the contemporary socialist movements, their major accomplishments, their shortcomings, and what went wrong. The USSR was the bastion of the world revolution and the greatest leap forward humanity ever made into the future of communism and the global working class should be proud that of its achievement. However, the socialist revolution in America will be rooted in the material and social conditions of the American people, which are quite different than those of the Soviet people. Seeing as we are part of an international and global movement, whether or not our vision of socialism resembles something “foreign” is irrelevant. In fact, I think that the use of the most internationally recognized communist symbolism should be much more encouraged in order to strengthen our solidarity with the global movement. What is important is that it conforms to the material and social conditions of the people. As the vanguard of the socialist revolution, Communists should work to take our international symbols (the hammer and sickle, the red star, etc.) and fuse them with modern (can’t put enough emphasis on modern) American cultural and art styles so that the American people can see the symbols of our movement and identify with them.

The core of the issue I believe manifests itself in how we define our ideology as a party. There is debate going on right now on whether or not we should be “Marxist” or “Marxist-Leninist” and what the differences, if any in practice, would entail. I think we need to take this debate to a more radical level. Should we identify ourselves by the ideas of individuals? Karl Marx, the pioneering scientist of modern socialism, once said “I am not a Marxist”. He said this because the term “Marxism” was being used by other contemporary socialists trying to identify themselves as more orthodox to the theories of Marx and slandering opposition as not orthodox enough. Marx’s approach to understanding the development of society through the method of dialectical materialism forms the backbone of the ideological stance of the Party. Lenin’s analysis of imperialism and the development of monopoly capitalism further expand upon this backbone, and his principles of party organizational tactics are an indispensable frame of reference in being able to most effectively organize the working class in such a way that will truly challenge the capitalist power structure. To quote Lenin: “We want to achieve a new and better order of society: … This new and better society is called socialist society. The teachings about this society are called socialism.” Here is the answer to the question. Marx and Lenin (among so many others) were scientists: their science is socialism. Therefore, the Communist Party should define its ideology simply as the science of Socialism. In removing the names of individuals, we take on a purely scientific outlook on socialism, basing our understanding on the methods of developing ideology rather than ideology itself. If the Communist Party drops individualist identification of its ideology, this will also pave the way for expanding the party as a broader and inclusive party of the socialist conscious American populous.

Adopting “science” and “socialism” as the ideological definitions of the party would be a significant break from the past and from the international movement. But is this a bad thing? Among the many English translations of our movement’s anthem “the Internationale”, one of the lines are “No more traditions chains shall bind us.” This concept seems to be lost on much of the Left in the United States. If socialism is to advance in America, its advocates need to unbind themselves from the traditions of the past and immerse themselves in the present with an advanced outlook for the future. In doing so, we can take on a new image which better conveys the science of socialism to the people in a way that they can take interest and understand. Perhaps we should hold other American science popularizers in equally high esteem as our socialist heroes. We should honor fighters in struggle such as Martin Luther King, Jr. as well as the most effective appealers to reason such as Carl Sagan. We should be more conscious in how we present ourselves to the people in such a way that will appeal to them. With all due respect to both, I can assure that the hearts of young Americans will be won over more effectively by Carl Sagan than by Karl Marx.

You can cling to your sacred cows of communism all you want, but if you’re alienating yourself from the masses, can you truly call yourself a revolutionary?

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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