Convention Discussion: Zombie Marxism or 21st Century Socialism?

BY: Chris Elliott| May 29, 2014

Submitted by Chris Elliott, Los Angeles, CA

“No power on Earth can now restore capitalism in the Soviet Union and defeat the socialist community.”

— Institute of Marxism-Leninism
V.I. Lenin, Selected Works, Vol. 3, Preface

‘Idea’ invariably was discredited every time it departed from ‘interest.’ — K. Marx

Plakat Poster, Moscow, 1990

“The method they used consisted in the refusal of a section of the Party to work under the direction of the hated central bodies. But no central institution of any party in the world can ever prove its ability to direct people who refuse to accept its direction. Refusal to accept the direction of the central bodies is tantamount to refusing to remain in the Party, it is tantamount to disrupting the Party; it is a method of destroying, not convincing. And these efforts to destroy instead of convince show their lack of consistent principles, lack of faith in their own ideas.”                                

— V.I. Lenin, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

A specter is haunting the CPUSA, the specter of Zombie Marxism.

Zombie Marxism, an undead ideology alien to all living political reality, in practice sharply diverges from the path to the revolutionary realization of the theory of the working class (socialism), leading instead to the graveyard of political obsolescence.

Zombie Marxists, their brains infected with an ideological virus contracted from exposure to outdated textbooks, mildewed pamphlets and stray ideas from various petty bourgeois radical movements, wander the blogosphere in confusion, robotically reenacting obscure old controversies, this time using Facebook memes.

The Zombie Marxists’ obsessive preoccupation with the mythos of a defunct state leads them into an irrational intellectual living death. Mindlessly, they promote an idea without an interest, an ahistorical dogma no longer backed by any living, breathing social/material force. At the same time they undermine the ongoing struggle for socialism by passively ignoring or aggressively counter-organizing against the Party.

Zombie Marxists are immediately identifiable by their adherence to:

  • The authoritarian-kitsch cultural accoutrements of Great Patriotic War-era USSR and Cultural Revolution -era China (e.g. the Hammer & Sickle; Socialist Realism, the cults of Stalin and Mao)

  • Cryptic, conspiratorial “shadow parties” of the CPUSA

  • Blogs purporting to be in the tradition of Gus Hall and William Z. Foster, which are Tea Partian in their vitriolic hatred of Obama and terror of “creeping liberalism”

  • Foreign “hardliner” parties

  • Stalin rehabilitation efforts

  • Generalized “Marxist-Leninist” fetishism

Zombie Marxism sustains itself through cannibalism. It seeks to devour living political subjects and transform them into rabid packs of Zombie Marxists. Zombie Marxism is dangerous not only because it actively attempts to undermine Party unity and practical work (especially electoral work)-it can be a source of confusion for younger and newer comrades.

Zombie Marxists, basing their arguments on false equivalencies, ad hominem attacks, and straw men, argue not to convince, or to offer anything new, but to stigmatize and smear the leadership and stymie the Party while they pump up their own uber-radical egos. The clumsy assaults of these creatures are characterized by:

1. The violation of principles of democratic centralism by subverting elected Party leaders (“the faction in control of the Party center in New York”) and policies (“right opportunism and social-democracy”), and promoting an open rebellion e.g. replicating CPUSA clubs in Los Angeles, Houston, and New York into Zombie Marxist pod clubs and producing false-flag documents.

According to one blog: “We need a vanguard Communist Party USA …that rejects the Imperialist two-party monopoly, stands on its own two feet and fights for the working class in honesty and integrity (!)… we must purge the cancer of revisionism and Browderism from our ranks… We must …save our party by expelling those that seek to poison it.”

What inspires this righteous vitriol? One of Party Chair Sam Webb’s reasonable suggestions, like: “Marxism, if it is going to be a robust theory of socialist transformation, has to be historical, ecological, dialectical, comprehensive, independently elaborated-without shortcuts, simplifications, or official boundaries. It can’t be the sole franchise of one party or school or tradition.”

Another blog, decrying the “opportunism” of the Party leadership, suggests, “Starting yet another party with even less people will not be effective. When people go looking for communist or socialist answers, they will seek out “THE” Communist Party. We should work within the Party, and start “unofficial” publications and websites to influence the direction of the Party.”

2. Rejection of the party’s policy to defeat the ultra-right, as “reformist” and “revisionist.” Zombie Marxists use the straw man argument that the Party leadership promotes “unconditional support” for Democrats. Following the pre-1935 Party dictum “class against class,” they flatten the class struggle into a one-dimensional hermetic concept that ignores or glosses over the current relationship of forces, including the roles of specially oppressed groups.

Not being able to see the theoretical forest for the ideological trees, the Zombie Marxists view both major parties as essentially the same: apolitical. Both parties make up a “ruling class” of “Imperialists” composed of roughly 50% Democrats and 50% Republicans.

To support a Democrat against a Republican means “unconditionally” supporting the ruling class over the working class. In this soft-focus view that mashes class struggle into democratic struggle, “liberalism” and “Social-Democracy” are the real enemies, not the ultra-right, proto-fascist reactionaries who put workers on the defensive by controlling both houses of Congress, statehouses, and major portions of whole industrial sectors, including mass media.  

In “Origin of the Family,” Engels clearly demarcates the relationship between electoral politics and class struggle: “The democratic republic does not abolish the antagonism between the two classes; on the contrary, it provides the field on which it is fought out.”

The Communist Manifesto, stressing the importance of participation in mainstream politics, says to “labor everywhere for the union …of the democratic parties of all countries,” and “never cease to instill into the working class… recognition of the hostile [class] antagonism so that workers may straightaway use … the social and political conditions that the bourgeoisie must introduce with its supremacy, in order that, after the fall of the reactionary classes, the fight against the bourgeoisie itself may immediately begin…”

When Zombie Marxists call for the CPUSA to “resume its historical role as the vanguard party of the working class,” “take leadership of anything,” or “show any kind of independence,” they offer no alternative beyond a spontaneous mass uprising, the impotent formula of supporting “outsider” (but still bourgeois) personalities such as the Greens’ Ralph Nader, or uniting behind another socialist micro party’s vanity campaign.

The Zombie Marxists would have had us supporting Peace & Freedom candidate Rosanne Barr in 2012, isolating ourselves from the main forces by pitting ourselves in vain opposition to the near-unanimous support of African Americans and trade unionists for Obama.

3. Promotion of a bizarre, historically revisionist Stalin-worship.

Zombie Marxists see the rehabilitation of Stalin, a figure famous for rivaling the imperialists in killing communists, as “honoring Party history.” Not understanding or caring that putting Stalin’s face on a postage stamp would not move us an inch closer to socialism; they are equally oblivious to the irony that the real Stalin would have rewarded their outrageous anti-Party slander and Party-destroying activities with a firing squad.


  1. Dropping the distractingly arcane term “Leninism” and using simply “Marxism” to describe our method. Lenin identified himself as a Marxist; the concept “Marxism-Leninism” was created later to support the interests of the USSR. It is no longer possible to speak of the Soviet Union as the leader of the global working class.

  2. Modifying our insignia to more closely identify with the contemporary global working class. The iconography behind the hammer & sickle is meaningless to today’s workers. Instead, the “hammer & wrench” and “cog” icons are the instantly recognizable symbols of “tools and settings” used in electronic devices, familiar to the US working masses who rely on them in their daily lives.

  3. The Zombie Marxists are correct that an organizational commission should be re-established. This commission could be an effective means to neutralize the spread of Zombie Marxism and limit the damage it causes.

  4. Formal education and training in the Marxist method, utilizing un-revised source texts as well as contemporary Marxist thinkers, is critical for new members (as ongoing study is essential for all members).   

Comrades! Put people before prophets! Stop Zombie Marxism!

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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