Basic principles of the Communist Party and what must be done to build it
As stated in its Program, “The Road to Socialism,” The CPUSA is the revolutionary party of the U.S. working class. That is, the Party is first of all a fighter for working-class people. Its doors are open to all seeking to improve their living and working conditions and reduce the insecurity and suffering that the capitalist system of exploitation and oppression imposes upon them. The Party stands in solidarity with them and joins their efforts to survive and improve their lives under this system, but it also is guided by the revolutionary science of Marxism-Leninism and seeks to get rid of the capitalist system altogether, to remove the capitalists from their position of dominance and raise the working class to the position of ruling class.
The Party is based ,first of all,on the fundamental principles set forth in the Communist Manifesto. The Manifesto expresses the basic ideas of the theory of historical materialism demonstrating how one form of class society gives rise to another. In particular, it revealed how European feudal society gave way to the rise of capitalist society from 1789 to 1848 when the Manifesto was written. However it also expresses basic principles that continue to be valid and necessary for revolutionaries of the 21st century.
1. Human history is the history of the class struggle. That is, since the break up beginning some 12,000 years ago of ancient primitive communalism, which had existed from the time human beings first evolved, the struggle between the exploited and oppressed working people and their exploiters and oppressors has been the content and dynamic of human history. This went on for thousands of years before the Manifesto was written. it is an objective phenomenon, which does not depend on any particular individuals or political parties. It is not something that is invented or instigated by Communists or anyone else. It is a reality that confronts everyone independently of their will whether they are aware of it or not.
2. The working class is a revolutionary class, in fact, it is the only truly revolutionary class. This means, first of all, the condition of the working class is one of exploited wage-slaves, who create all wealth, but receive through their wages only a small fraction of the wealth they create, while the largest portion is appropriated by their exploiters, the capitalist class. This unpaid labor is the source of the massive private profits accruing to the capitalist class. The historic mission of the working class is not simply to alleviate capitalist exploitation and oppression, but to end it altogether. That is, the working class, while it relentlessly seeks to improve its living standards and democratic rights, to prevent war and environmental catastrophe, is not simply a reformist class. Its mission is to revolutionize society, to destroy the ruling class status of the capitalists and to elevate itself as the new ruling class, with dominant control over the economy, government, culture and all institutions of society. This is called socialism and is the transition to the higher form of society called communism, where people will finally be free from want and coercion and be motivated by the principle of ”one for all, all for one.”
3. The role of the Communists is to facilitate this process, to help make it happen as quickly, peacefully and painlessly as possible. That is, the Communist Party is the political leader of the working class. It helps to organize the mass struggle of the working class for political, economic and social power, to destroy the capitalist state and to establish a new state of , by and for the working people. This is the meaning of Marx’s concept of “the dictatorship of the proletariat,” which Lenin insisted is the fundamental, most important principle, the essence, of Marxism. Today, we no longer use this term, since the word “dictatorship” has negative connotations, and is not understood in the sense that was used by Marx, Engels and Lenin, but the basic principle remains for anyone to be considered a Marxist or a working class revolutionary.
The ideology of the Communist Party is unitary. It does not reflect the outlook of any other class except the working class. The Party, its press and associated organizations are not multi-class or multi-ideological. There is nothing narrow or sectarian about this, since, by representing the outlook and interests of the working class, the Communist Party represents the broadest possible point of view. The ultimate result of the work of the Communist Party is that “the International working class shall be the human race.”
Marx, Engels and, especially, Lenin fought fiercely against efforts by bourgeois and petty bourgeois forces to adulterate the class character of the Communist Party. They defined these efforts as right opportunism, reformism, revisionism, and liquidationism and denounced them as the most powerful ideological weapons the ruling class has to corrode, divide and derail the fighting capacity and revolutionary character of the working class party.
Allowing these influences into the working class party is like adding strychnine to a stew or spraying a can of Raid into a beehive. Those who spread these influences present them under high-sounding covers like “breaking with dogma,” “freedom of criticism,” “national exceptional-ism,” “renovation,” and “modernization.” But whatever term is used,they are poison to the revolutionary mission of the working class party and, if tolerated, would turn the Party into a liberal, reformist mishmash tail of the Democratic Party.
Lenin’s main focus in the years leading up to the Russian Revolution was to combat such influences, which took forms, known to history, as Legal Marxism, Economism, Kautskyism and Menshevism. This was the main thrust of Lenin’s fundamental works, including ”The State and Revolution,” “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism” and “The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky.”
Only by insisting on the fundamental ideological direction of the Manifesto and the works of Marx and Engels was it possible for Lenin’s party to lead the working class to socialism.
It was Lenin’s relentless, thorough-going exposure of the class character and bankruptcy of right opportunism that was his most fundamental contribution to the science of revolution and the reason those seeking to dissolve and cripple Communist Parties have always advocated rejection of Leninism.
4. The Manifesto defines the day to day work of Communists as two-fold:”The Communists fight for the attainment of the immediate aims, for the enforcement of the momentary interests of the working class; but in the movement of the present, they also represent and take care of the future of the movement.”
These are the two sides of the same revolutionary coin. If Communists only performed the first function, they would be simply a reformist organization incapable of providing a vision or solution to the oppression and chronic insecurity of working people. But if they only performed the second function they would be a helpless sect with no base and incapable of leading a movement needed to make change. Communists must perform both functions at all times to be a revolutionary working class party.
In practice, this means that the Communist Party has as its its primary responsibility to be fully immersed in the current struggles of working people, helping to strengthen all aspects of this objectively existing movement. This includes such efforts as union organizing drives, strikes, struggles against racist oppression, movements against the oppression of women, immigrant workers and the LBGTQ community, movements for full access to voting, health care, public education, for peace and protection of the environment. While the working class has greatly expanded, since the Manifesto was written beyond the industrial proletariat, the workers in the key manufacturing industries remain decisive in determining the living standards, working conditions and share of the wealth going to the working people and, as the Party’s program states, the policy of “industrial concentration,” continues to be essential.
Under conditions of capitalist democracy the first function of the Party also means taking full part in the electoral and legislative struggles so as to seek the most favorable outcome for working people. In general, today, it means fighting to build the broadest democratic movement to defeat right wing extremism, which reflects the aims and views of the dominant section of U.S. capital.
The second responsibility is more complex. It means that,in the framework of the existing class struggles, the role of Communists is to link each particular struggle with the overall effort of achieving working class unity, solidarity, consciousness and, ultimately, working class power In the United States, it means connecting every issue, every struggle to the fight against racism, a fundamental feature that was built into U.S. capitalism, even prior to the American Revolution, through the enslavement of workers kidnapped from Africa,. Racism continued after the abolition of slavery through the system of KKK terror and Jim Crow segregation. Today,despite the achievement of formal, legal civil rights for African-Americans, racism continues to permeate every aspect of U.S. capitalist society. Although it is far from the only means U.S. capital has for dividing the working class, it is the most fundamental, most powerful weapon in its arsenal.
The second responsibility also means the effort to build socialist and revolutionary consciousness and organization including building the Communist Party as a mass working class organization.
The party can never be multi-class or multi-ideological without crippling its ability to achieve its historic mission. But on the path to socialism, the Party of the working class must inevitably enter into temporary agreements with parties of other classes. This has occurred in every socialist revolution. Lenin’s party was temporarily in agreement with bourgeois liberal parties like the Cadets, in the fight to end Tsarism, but the Russian Communists always did so as an independent party, pointing out that even overthrowing the entrenched power of the Tsar would not solve the underlying problem of capitalist exploitation and oppression. Similarly, the Cuban revolutionaries worked with bourgeois liberals to overthrow the Batista dictatorship as a necessary step to achieving socialism. Vietnamese, Chinese and Korean revolutionaries also needed bourgeois liberal allies to achieve national independence from foreign imperialists and make possible their socialist revolutions.
Today, the CPUSA is temporarily in agreement with bourgeois liberals to defeat the right wing extremist section of corporate power and beat back the threat of fascism as a necessary means to defeat corporate power in general. For liberals, defeating the right is a means to gain power, possibly implement reforms and stabilize capitalism. Communists, on the other hand, while fully supporting needed reforms, also recognize that defeat of right-wing extremism would actually weaken capitalism, allow the balance of forces to shift toward working people and increase the possibility for revolutionary change.
Temporary tactical alliances with other class forces are necessary but must never be allowed to corrupt the working class and revolutionary character of the Party. As stated in “the Road to Socialism,” the program of the CPUSA, “The Party must wage a constant ideological battle on two fronts (against right opportunism and left sectarianism) to keep from being pulled in either direction …focusing the main effort against the tendency that is stronger at a given moment.”
Today it is clear in both the United States and throughout the world, the main danger is right opportunism. This became a massive problem when the working class movement suffered its greatest setback in history with the destruction of socialism in the Soviet Union. This led to the restoration of capitalism in Russia, Eastern Europe, South Yemen and Mongolia, to a massive ideological vacuum in the Middle East and much of Africa that was filled by religious fanaticism, to the spread of war and genocidal conflict. and to the weakening of emerging socialist societies in Latin America.
Contrary to the claims of bourgeois propaganda, the cause of this debacle was not shortcomings in the socialist system, but rather to the corruption and betrayal by Soviet leaders to the forces of capitalism and the bourgeois ideology of right opportunism. Their first act was to immobilize the CPSU, deny it access to the media and eventually outlaw it altogether. The CPSU was the glue holding Soviet society together and the dynamic force moving it in the direction of communism. It was the base for revolutionary liberation movements throughout the world. It was the main deterrent to the rampant, reckless policies of imperialism and the danger of nuclear war. How different the world would be today if Gorbachev and company had not surrendered to right opportunism and bourgeois reformism!
This setback had a tremendous impact in the Communist and working class movement throughout the world. It caused leaders of Communist Parties everywhere including in the United States to become disoriented and discouraged, to give up on the struggle to overthrow capitalism and in some cases even desert to the class enemy.
It remains the challenge to the CPUSA as well as other parties to recognize the insidious power and destructive influence of right opportunism and to conduct the kind of relentless, thorough-going struggle against it that Lenin and the Bolsheviks waged in the period leading up to the October Revolution.
This is particularly the case now when the objective conditions for building a mass Communist Party in the United States are better than they have been in decades. Not since the 1960’s has there been such a mass democratic upsurge as there is today. Whether it is the fight for $15 and a union, the Black Lives Matter movement, the fight against climate change,the struggles for the rights of women,immigrants, the LBGTQ community or the unprecedented response to the historic campaign of Bernie Sanders, who popularized ideas of socialism and “political revolution,” it is clear that the anger, readiness to mobilize and to embrace radical ideas as well as the general discontent with the existing political and economic system has has reached entirely new levels.
First and foremost has been recognition that the disparity in wealth between “the billionaire class” and the overwhelming majority of the people has reached intolerable levels and that the means for solving the problems, creating economic and ecological security, and guaranteeing an advanced democracy are abundantly available. The freeing of these resources cannot occur within the confines of the capitalist system and revolutionary change is both possible and necessary. In other words, the contradiction between the social creation of wealth and its private appropriation has become more extreme than at any time in human history and cannot be defended by any rational person.
In addition, the ruling class is in growing crisis and less able to manage its affairs than in a very long time. Congress is deadlocked with growing incapacity to enact legislation or even make routine appointments. The GOP, representing the dominant right wing extremist section of capital, is deeply divided, has become tied to a narrow base of fascist-like forces and has chosen a mentally unstable, deranged, individual as its candidate for president.
Thus, two of the three conditions for a revolutionary situation are emerging — the people increasingly refuse to be ruled in the old way and the ruling class is increasingly unable to rule in the old way. The third condition — the existence of a revolutionary organization capable of leading the people and taking power is not yet present, which is why the fight to defeat right opportunism influences is so critical.
Despite the development of the first two conditions, the CPUSA has to contend with claims that the “Communist brand is broken and cannot be fixed,” that “we have tried everything, but anti-communism cannot be overcome and the party cannot be built,” that the terms “Communist” and “Leninist” should be dumped, that resources should be diverted from organizing and focused entirely on “communication,” and the problems of even maintaining existing organization are insurmountable and the Party itself should be liquidated or “jettisoned.”
It is in this framework that the elimination of full-time district organizers as well as the YCL and Political Affairs must be viewed. Various excuses have been given for these policies and promises to fill the voids in other ways were made but never implemented. It is a travesty that at a time of unprecedented upsurge of youth of all national and racial backgrounds that there is no Communist youth organization or even a meaningful youth outreach program and that there is no ideological means of expression available to communists who reject liquidationism. In addition, there has been a serious weakening and even elimination of national commissions
When the former National Chairman announces he is indeed a “liquidationist” and then proceeds to quit the Party, his self-description cannot be papered over and dismissed as not being serious. It is not only the Party, but also Marxism, which he has rejected, renounced and abandoned. It is time to face facts and recognize the nature and extent of the problem we face. We are dealing with the influence of counter-revolutionary bourgeois and petty bourgeois ideology that is posing an fundamental threat to the existence of the Communist Party. This problem must not be minimized or covered up. It must be frankly confronted and the ideological threat as well as the decisions connected with it must be reversed. The Party must be restored on a firm working class Marxist-Leninist basis.