Convention Discussion: The Path To Socialism, and its “Marxist-Leninist” critics

BY: John Case| May 19, 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

The length, depth and scope of the profound, global economic crisis — that appears from being over, and whose resolution is indeed very clouded with big questions — is generating many strong and energetic “positions” across the political spectrum. Yet many of these “positions” — I will just talk about the Left here — conceal the real interests behind them with phrases and expressions that are highly deceptive and disingenuous, and harmful to requirements of unity. 

A narrowly based, but very persistent campaign has been waged on the Internet and in the comments sections of CP publications — by my count nearly 20% of commenters and discussants and much more if you count the number of words — with the sole effective purpose being to distract the Left, and especially the CP, from working within the broadly defined Obama coalition, or from focusing on majority-based agenda of reforms. 

Claiming to be true followers of Gus Hall, or Joseph Stalin, or WZ Foster, most every comment or article these folks publish is 30% or more devoted to attacks on the CP leadership as revisionists and reformists or sellouts for supporting many of president Obama’s initiatives. Like the Greek CP whom they claim to emulate, they support a return to a Stalin style command, centrally planned economy as the cure for the collapse of the USSR, and for the world economic crisis to boot. As if butter would not melt in their mouths, no mention is made of the monstrous terror state erected around Stalin. 

But no matter — already its clear — the stuff some factons want to talk about would not draw a crowd of workers big enough for a bar in South Buffalo. And whoever heads down the trick road of debating “who is the true marxist-leninist”, will never get out of the bar.

A recent post by one says, for example: “[I am] tired of the struggle being defined as “democratic”, which has no class content, as opposed to “socialist” which does have class content.” 

One does not have to re-read Lenin’s Infantile Disorder pamphlet to know that this kind of thinking is is nonsense, and dangerous nonsense at that. It’s actually anti-political. The struggle for health care reform, both the bill already passed, and the ones yet to come, is a major contest of class forces, in which the working people won the principle of universality of coverage. This was a democratic struggle because it lays important groundwork for substantially enhancing workers protection from disease, death and bankruptcy in the face of no coverage. It also empowers workers by making them dues-paying members of a comprehensive system. As such it much enhances their voice and power to effect change going forward. It has class content. And it is a democratic struggle in which workers and broad popular forces united.

The struggle for financial reform is next. The consumer protection agency, the restrictions on shadow banking, the Volkerite proposals to make the financial system smaller are all profoundly democratic reforms: they enhance the power of the majority at the expense of the financial sector. Who is the majority? Workers, in the main, who desperately need more investment that strengthens their jobs and incomes. Nationalizing the financial sector is NOT achievable at the current time – does that mean these democratic reforms have no class content, do not promise to help bring a more stable recovery. Financial reforms passed in the 1930’s helped sustain rising worker incomes, the advance of industrial unionism, and relative economic stability for over 30 years. Were workers lives improved? Yes.

Energy legislation comes next — are not the reforms there, including measures to address global warming, as well as green industrial policy both class and democratic demands?

EFCA – the hopeful rebirth of trade unionism as a key means of worker empowerment – a solidly democratic reform, and also a class question of high order.

One can go on, but none of this will impress these cultish critics. The writer excerpted above concludes: 

“The “democratic” struggle is not inherently a class struggle in the United States. Democratic gains can be made, and should be made where possible, within the confines of the existing capitalist structures. However, the democratic struggle in and of itself is not a class conscious battle for working class power in the United States. It can take that form, but does not have to take that form. A communist party must fight for the class conscious nature of the struggle.”

One might ask, what exactly is “a class conscious battle for working class power in the United States“, apart from the very large contests enumerated above, according this line? Simple. Just engage in Marxist phrase-mongering! “Discard capitalism implement a socialist state“! “Central Planning Now”! “Instruct the workers that the reforms they seek are essentially meaningless!” We could add more slogans completely!” compatible with these: “Focus on criticizing Obama’s Mistakes!”, “Defending the Greek CP against revisionism is more important than joining Obama’s grass roots lobbying effort for financial reform”. 

The phrase-mongering pastime on the US Left is of longstanding and sad duration. Its a form of simple laziness. When push comes to shove in the key battles right in front of us, I think forces seduced by this line will be missing in action. 

The line of principle vs opportunism in this era is decided by who figures out how to turn out the multitudes to unite for key democratic reforms that involve serious money and political rights for workers, and who stands in the way or distracts from that objective. Whatever party makes the most difference in mobilizing workers to decisively move the reform agenda is the real “communist” party, whatever its name may be. 

When the multitudes are in motion, many things become possible, and we shall find out, along with the rest of the working people of this country the true character and potential of this movement without the assistance of any dogmatic incantations. While I do not intend to debate “what is true Marxism-Leninism”, I confess it is a travesty that thinkers and fighters on the order of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin are reduced to cartoons in the cult driven, anti-intellectual and truly anti-scientific mentality of some who dub themselves ‘Marxist-Leninists”. 

Bottom Line: the effect of these and similar ideological trends is to engage in dead-end debates, engage in no action which aids the working class mobilization for the reform agenda in the US, and in fact detracts from and weakens it by sucking it into a truly pointless and infantile discussion. So there is no point of reconciliation or utility going further down that path.

Who has an interest in distracting the people from the momentous work to be done? Republicans, Blue Dog Democrats and their supporters — and anarchists/libertarians. NOT communists, socialists, or progressive Democrats and their constituencies.

While asserting our responsibility to project a vision of an advanced socialist society, guided by the principle of “from each according to their ability, to each according to their work”, we must firmly reject any and all attempts to separate in the slightest degree the path to socialism, or socialist ideology, from broad-based struggle for economic and political reforms that enhance the wealth and rights of working people, or from the path to peace between workers and peoples of all nations.





    John Case is a former electronics worker and union organizer with the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers (UE), also formerly a software developer, now host of the WSHC "Winners and Losers" radio program in Shepherdstown, W.Va.

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