Convention Discussion: Is Marxism-Leninism necessary?

BY: Erwin Marquit| May 2, 2014

Submitted by Erwin Marquit of the Minnesota/Dakotas District of the Communist Party.

Essential to any discussion about dropping the term Marxism-Leninism is a clear understanding of what the term entails. The best summation of its essence is the “Ten Theses of Marxist-Leninist Theory” written by the late German Communist philosopher, Hans Heinz in his book, Downfall and Future of socialism (Minneapolis: MEP Publications, [1992], 32-37 (PDF download). The test of a party being a Communist Party is not in its name, but in whether its ideology is based on what Holz has laid out in his theses. A statement that the ideology of the Party is based on the ideas or intellectual heritage of Marx, Engels, and Lenin has enabled the German Communist Party to make clear its ideological orientation when it was banned from identifying itself as Marxist-Leninist in its foundational documents.

I do not think we need to drop the term from our constitution, but just not use it in our activities where its meaning would not be understood without Holz’s extensive expansion. It is necessary, however, that new members acquaint themselves with what Marxism-Leninism means. I do not imagine anyone going into our constitution before joining the Party and being turned off upon encountering the term. In fact, the term should be included in the constitution with a brief explanation that the inclusion of Lenin reflects our understanding that the a Party based in the working class is necessary to develop the class consciousness necessary for a transition to socialism. Indeed, ignoring Lenin is the principle difference between us and those to right of us that characterize themselves as Marxist or socialist.

After the convention in 1991 a large group of Party leaders and activists left the Party to form what is now called the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, abandoning the terms Communism, and Marxism-Leninism, including democratic centralism. Its positions on domestic and foreign issues are similar to ours. It has shown no sign of growth in the twenty-two years since its formation. Our international identity with the world Communist movement is the principle ideological difference. We are stronger than they because they started with less members and other material resources as well as our international identity. Why should we expect that changes in name and dissociation with Leninism in our constitution bring about different results?

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


    Erwin Marquit, professor emeritus of physics at the University of Minnesota, continues to teach a course on Marxist studies. Erwin writes on theory and practice of socialism and on dialectical materialist philosophy of science. He is the associate editor of Marxist Educational Press.

Comments (7)

E.E.W. Clay | May 15, 2014 at 11:56 AM

If the Communists would carefully define what Marxism-Leninism is, as Erwin Marquit suggests, the Communists would better know if it is necessary.
That it why it is instructive to read, at least the Ten Theses of Marxist-Leninist theory by Holz, suggested by Marquit.
This knowledge would help us learn the content of what is at issue, Marxism-Leninism, in today’s world.
We will then know that there is indeed an intense need for this science because of what we come from as humans, and what positively we can become in natural history-which is the creation of real humanity, communists.
This clarity will afford us insight into why and how we are in a tizzy about arguing over “names” or “things”-content or form.
It is clear from thousands of references that the principles enumerated in these “Ten Theses” are maybe as weighty and relevant in our pre-convention issue in 2014 as John Reed’s “Ten Days”(with its foreword by V. I. Lenin) to the world in the Bolsheviks day.

E.E.W. Clay | May 14, 2014 at 4:15 PM

Respectfully, people, like brother Bernard Sampson do keep “dancing around the issue”(however, not our Jim Lane) of revolutionary Leninism, and its connection with Marxism.
Truly, this Leninism, in real history, is that relevant thing that has the content of Marxism.
Brother Sampson, why don’t you discuss brother Marquit’s content in this article, Hans Heinz Holz’s-The Ten Theses of Marxist-Leninist Theory?
Many of us would invite brother Sam Webb, sister Roberta Wood, sister Elena Mora-and all comers to discuss this and the query :”Is Marxism-Leninism necessary?”

Bernard Sampson | May 14, 2014 at 9:15 AM

Comrades keep raising a straw man in these arguments about Marxist Leninism. Every Communist should know the difference between form & content. But it seems some dont. That a pity & embarrassing.Who says Lenins writing and our study of them should be stopped ? I was at a class last night our club had on Lenins state & revolution. Its the best book on the state by any Marxist. But i think we should call ourselves Marxists just like Lenin did . I cant see why comrades cant see the difference it makes in our day to day work in the civil rights & labor movement. We dropped the term “dictatorship of the proletariat” from our program in 1966 under Gus Halls leadership. We say the same thing in a different form but the content is the same.Was Gus a social democrat ? Would you have disagreed at that time with the party leadership ?This is no different. I would rather feel good recruitng & building the mass movement than feeling smug & isolated using terms which while sounding “revolutionary”only marginalize us keep us from achieving a real revolutionary goal.Bernard Sampson,Houston Branch

E.E.W. Clay | May 13, 2014 at 10:25 AM

The present writer can’t help wonder how open the present discussion concerning the 30th Convention is:
on the one hand, there are those who question whether current top leadership has violated the present Party Constitution; on the other there is for one instance I am aware of wherein comments have been deleted out, apparently censured with no explanation, in connection comments with this, “Convention Discussion: Is Marxism-Leninism necessary?” by Erwin Marquit.
Party documents will indicate that Erwin Marquit has written that the former General Secretary of the Party, Gus Hall’s watch was characterized, at least recently, in Marquit’s opinon, by driving a wedge between intellectual and manual workers, as opposed to unifying them in struggle, in and around the Communist Party, according to our goals and principles.
Is this too inflammatory, controversial or arbitrary, an issue to bring to light? We certainly should hope not, the objective, scientific, constructively critical organization we are.
Can we make a simple reference to reality to decide whether this is accurate or not? It would seem so.
How many decades was Gus Hall in leadership? What were and are the growth or shrink patterns? What do these patterns have to do with today’s patterns and in all this- “Is Marxism-Leninism necessary?”

E.E.W. Clay | May 07, 2014 at 11:17 AM

Puzzled why the present writer’s comment was not moved forward, yet brother Jim Lane’s was(mine was made the previous day to Lane’s)?
I am sure this is/was a technical mistake-please correct it.


jim lane | May 06, 2014 at 5:49 PM

Glad you brought up the Committees, because there seems to have been a lot of movement toward them in our party. I hear party leaders saying “Their differences are not so great…” But those differences were great enough for them to leave the party in 1991, and I haven’t seen any sign that they changed. The only conclusion I can draw is that CPUSA leaders, at least some of them, have changed and are actually going over to the other side.

If those who want to give up the essential point of Marxism, helping the working class to overcome the capitalist class, expect to recruit great numbers, then they should be able to cite tremendous success in recruitment by the Committees. But did they have any such success? –jimlane

E.E.W. Clay | May 05, 2014 at 1:51 PM

Agreeing with the thrust of brother Erwin Marquit here, in fact, considering this an excellent, yet concise document. However, if anyone would have a problem with the internationalist term Communist, they may not see a need to study the internationalist Holz(the need for American Communists to study German Communists and their ideas, and perhaps that’s the point).
However, the present writer is sure that brother Marquit would not say that the only reason activists split from the CP in 1991 was to drop the labels Communist and Marxist-Leninist.
Citing these reasons only would ignore the sectarianism of the Gus Hall era, the wedging between intellectual and manual workers of that era, the racist and sexist capitulation in the name of keeping the Communists “pure and manly”(stated or unstated). Why not an African American, Asian, Latino, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Native, gay, or woman chair, or even general secretary after Henry Winston?
The present writer has pointed out elsewhere how Gus Hall, in all his contributions, sparingly used, or did not use monumental historic findings by organizers and intellectual workers like W. E. B. Du Bois. Hall’s Imperialism Today uses no reference to the great anti-imperialist Du Bois.
In contrast, the great Communist and anti-imperialist Henry Winston, refers to Du Bois, over and over, in his Strategy for A Black Agenda, for instance.
The present discussion which favors dropping Communist and Leninist shows a serious flaw in understanding who the Communists are and what they are, and why.
Agreeing, the Committees also reflect this misunderstanding.

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