Convention Discussion: For a CPUSA that honors the Soviet experience

BY: Ed Wlody| May 15, 2010

This article is part of the discussion leading up to the Communist Party USA’s 29th National Convention May 21-23, 2010. takes no responsibility for the opinions expressed in this article or other articles in the pre-convention discussion. All contributions must meet the guidelines for discussion. To read other contributions to this discussion, visit the site of the Pre-Convention Discussion period.

All contributions to the discussion should be sent to for selection not to the individual venues.For more information on the convention or the pre-convention discussion period, you can email

There’s no avoiding an ideological struggle in our Party over twentieth-century socialism.

This convention must not accept such opportunistic and evasive formulations as “In some ways we were prisoners of the experience of Russia in 1917,” (“Democracy Matters,” interview with Sam Webb in Political Affairs, 2004) 

The CPUSA’s partisan view of the Soviet Union (1917-1991) is rooted neither in nostalgia nor obsession, nor unthinking habit. It is a commitment to the truth and to principle.  We were  not “prisoners” of anything. Our steadfastness will have practical implications for the future.

The class struggle is sharpening. Working people will be entering our movement. Most people join Communist Parties because they admire the people in our parties who are waging, and often leading struggles.

Sooner or later, if we wish to hold new people, we must offer a convincing explanation of the debacles of 1989-91. If we don’t, our ideological adversaries — bourgeois and right wing social democrats — certainly will. They will try to confuse them by means of their defamatory pseudo-explanations.

Some Party documents imply – incorrectly — that our Party and the world movement haven’t a clue about what caused the downfall of socialism in Eastern Europe and the USSR in 1989-91

To its credit International Publishers has published three fine books on the subject (Perestroika: Its Rise and Fall; Heroic Struggle, Bitter Defeat; and Socialism Betrayed) Although these books are treated with contempt by reformist elements in our leadership, they have been translated into dozens of languages by Communists around the world who hold these books in high esteem.

Several Parties including notably the Greek Communist Party have held conference after conference of Marxist scholars to arrive at a satisfactory historical materialist explanation of the 1989-91 calamities.  Reflecting more than a decade of collective work, their recent Theses on Socialism merit careful study by all.

In the former lands of socialism, the misery inflicted by gangster capitalism has caused tens of millions people to think again. Not many months ago, it was evident in the spate of articles on occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, that even conservative observers concede that the working people of most lands in Eastern Europe and the USSR, by large majorities, believe their lives were better under socialism. In the most extreme case, capitalist Russia, the re-imposition of capitalism has caused a demographic collapse

Communists struggle over historical memory. History was a terrain for ideological struggle in Lenin’s time too. He defended the Paris Commune  (1871) and generalized its political lessons in State and Revolution. Before him, Marx too was a fierce partisan of the Paris Commune. Both, of course, acknowledged and studied the mistakes that contributed to its downfall.

Twenty-century socialism is not a matter of ancient history. It is alive in such countries as Cuba, China, Vietnam, and Korea in all their diversity. Class solidarity with these existing socialist states, especially those most threatened by US imperialism, is the absolute duty of all US Communists.

This convention must reject any opportunistic distancing of the CPUSA from the Soviet experience. We are not embarrassed that we defended it when it was a living reality. We defend its memory now. We proudly affirm that Soviet socialism was the noblest and greatest large-scale experiment in “democracy for the many,” working -class democracy, in the 20th century.

This convention must insist that all Party leaders and Party publications should speak and write in that partisan spirit.

We, like the entire world, recognize and honor the monumental struggles and sacrifices of the Soviet people in the defeat and vanquishing of the Nazi/fascists who invaded the land of Socialism, and led to the deaths of 25 millions and suffering of an entire population. Such selflessness has never been witnessed in all the history of the world, and will forever be an inspiration to the working people in the world as we continue to fight for socialism on the road to Communism!  We are, after all, the Communist Party.

Angelo DiAngelo
Ed Wlody
Kevin Keating


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