How are we different?

BY:Gene Lantz| April 18, 2019

The program needed in these days of great political turmoil must explain how CPUSA differs from other organizations — that we have a workable plan to bring workers to power and we intend to carry it out.

Other progressive organizations, even the best of them, have more modest goals about improving things within the context of capitalism. I do not disparage them. They are mobilizing and training the working class. Communists should be clear: good as unions and other progressive organizations are, they will fall short.

Workers will make no permanent gains as long as capitalism prevails.

When union man George Meyers was in CPUSA leadership, he often talked about union contracts to show the impermanence of workers’ gains. No matter how hard workers fight for a contract, and no matter how great their new contract may be, they still have to do it over again when their contract expires!

Our lack of permanent gains is especially evident now. In the last forty years, we have seen union gains, civil rights gains, women’s rights gains, and even democracy itself set back by intensive government action at the behest of the ruling class. When we gather our working class forces and fight, we slow down the deterioration, or we even win some victories. But they are not permanent victories, and never will be as long as capitalism prevails.

A good example of impermanence is in Bill Johnston’s contribution, “What about Worker Co-Ops?” Johnston answers his own question when he recounts that such co-ops used to exist in his area, but were taken over by capitalists. They were impermanent gains.

Over the past period, the distinction between CPUSA and other progressive organizations has been muddied. Some of the leadership wandered away from revolutionary consciousness. I’m glad to see that some of the concepts that were almost banned, like “Marxism-Leninism,” are finding their way back into CPUSA usage.

Some of the past leadership tried to lead CPUSA back into the arms of the people who flatly turned down a revolutionary program in the 1991 split. They were social democrats. In other words, they believed in working toward minimal goals within capitalism for the foreseeable future. For them, socialism was not “on the horizon” and could be safely ignored.

At the same time, though, I see nothing in the draft explicitly acknowledging the errors that were made. Chris Butter’s contribution, “Trump, Monopoly Capital, and the ‘Extreme Right’ Stage,” says that CPUSA failed to properly understand the significance of the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016 and, instead, clung to the Clinton campaign as being less “extremely right.” I agree with him on that.

There are hopeful trends in the present pre-convention discussion.  Roberta Wood makes a critical point in her short contribution “Right wing, Let’s stop using this term.” Wood says, “By itself, ‘right wing’ has no class content.”

Such unscientific terms lead to unnecessary confusion. It should be pointed out that “extreme right,” which isn’t very clear, is used very often in CPUSA literature and in this discussion. It appears 130 times in the draft document.

Another problem with the draft document can be seen in Marxist Emile Schepers’ contribution, “Consolidating new members and developing new activists and cadres.” Among several good points he makes, Schepers touches on one of the biggest mistakes made in recent years: the degeneration of the rights and duties of CPUSA members. That is an error that must be corrected. Internal democracy must be restored.

Errors should be acknowledged and corrected. It is difficult to understand where we are when we don’t know where we have been.

Since around 2010, it has been difficult to distinguish CPUSA from well-meaning social democrats. The Draft Program, even though it is 30 pages longer than the Communist Manifesto, doesn’t show a clear break with past problems.

The future success of CPUSA lies in admitting our mistakes, repudiating the hopeless ideology of the social democrats, and mapping a revolutionary program. We can do that and, for the sake of humanity, we must!


    Gene is a member of the North Texas club of CPUSA.

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