Report on the Draft Program – The Road to Socialism

BY: Marc Brodine| August 18, 2005

Report by Marc Brodine, Chair of the Program Committee for the 28th Convention of the CPUSA. The report set the stage at the Convention for discussing, amending and adopting the .

The Process and the Discussion Our last Convention directed the incoming National Committee to draft a program. Our drafting committee began meeting in December, 2004. We held a discussion in the National Committee in January and made major revisions to the draft before issuing it to the whole Party in February. We based ourselves on the work of the National Committee over many years to develop strategy to address changing objective circumstances, economic and political developments, and new challenges in mass struggles. We based ourselves on the work of the whole Party to build the mass movement against the ultra-right.

Let me express thanks to the members of both the pre-Convention and Convention Committees on the Program.

What this Program Is Our Marxism is a living part of the class struggle, an interaction between our theory and the complex, ever-changing reality we deal with, on the job, in mass organizations, in struggles from election campaigns to strikes to picketlines to coalition meetings to conferences to demonstrations of hundreds of thousands.

This program, once adopted in final form, will be a statement of basic strategy to guide this work. The program analyzes, though not perfectly, the main social forces and movements, the stages of struggle ahead of us on the way to socialism, and the role of our Party in bringing Marxist theory to life. Our program will be an important vehicle for talking to potential members and allies. We hope it will facilitate club education, new members classes, and other increased ideological work. It could provide the basis for a series of more popularly written pamphlets.

Working on our program has enabled our whole Party to discuss our basic strategic concepts, which we often don’t find enough time for in the press of immediate struggles. This has been the most important result of the process we’ve engaged in, including the discussion and debate at this Convention.

The pre-convention discussion has been rich-with discussion in clubs, district bodies, the National Committee, National Board, and commissions. We received literally hundreds of comments, proposals, resolutions, and other submissions. Comments came from individual members, from clubs and districts, from national leaders and collectives, and from non-Party activists interested in our deliberations. They came through the pre-convention discussion bulletin, the discuss.cpusa web site, the PWW, and our committee e-mail address. Contributions came from Missouri, New Jersey, Illinois, Washington State, from New York, California, Texas, Massachusetts, from Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, New Mexico, Florida, from Pennsylvania, Iowa, Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, among others. The total print-out of all submissions runs to over 300 pages.

While the discussion has been uneven, and there is never enough time for all the discussion we would like to have, this wide participation has made this document the property of the whole Party. Based on this solid foundation, the decisions made by this Convention will determine the final nature of the program. The draft was the starting point, but today we propose many changes to strengthen it politically, to add more depth, and to correct some confusions, mistakes, and omissions. We considered all materials submitted up to June 15th, and most of our proposed changes come from among these contributions. We will take amendments from the floor today to continue to improve the document.

The Convention material includes a detailed list of the changes we propose. We urge their adoption today. Final wording we propose be worked out by a continuing committee following the Convention.

Many other contributions we propose be referred to this continuing committee, since we can’t go into the detail of discussing each sentence, each punctuation mark. However, we very much appreciate those who took the time to carefully go through the entire draft, who caught typos and missed words, whose editorial work will help us make the final program much more polished. We also propose referring some of the Committee’s additional editorial ideas for consolidation of subject areas and reorganization of subsections, which we don’t see as substantive, but which can clarify our message. In the process, we will take the time to review all materials again for any positive proposals we have missed, and for help with specific wording.

In spite of fundamental challenges to some strategic concepts, we think the draft represents the estimate of the large majority of our membership. We think that the Party is largely unified around the main strategic concepts expressed in the draft, such as the current stage of struggle against the ultra-right, such as the slogan Bill of Rights Socialism.

What is new, what has been substantially revisedWhat is new and different from our previous program, though these issues have been part of our more recent reports and discussions: building unity against the ultra-right as a separate stage of struggle a new estimate of the world balance of forces, greatly changed in the almost 25 years since the last version of our program discussion of more issues of national and racial oppression, though the draft does not try to be comprehensive reaffirmation of the importance of the struggle against racism for building class unity and unity between the working class and other core forces more attention to issues of democratic struggle and principles, both before and after socialist revolution more detailed elaboration of our application of Marxism to develop our nationally-specific path to socialism

Some Writing Issues When an earlier version of the draft was discussed by the National Committee in January, we were urged to avoid long lists of either nationally and racially oppressed peoples or social movements. As a result, in the draft circulated to the whole Party, we consolidated into more general subsections mention of many peoples and movements. In response to many comments, we propose adding back some specific subsections and proposing some reorganization of subsections. We want to avoid detail that would date the program. Space prevents us from discussing in detail all peoples and all movements. We acknowledge that this is a difficult balancing act, that some may interpret this to mean we are implying that struggles or peoples not discussed in separate subsections are somehow less important. This is not the case. Space, readability, clarity, our goal of compact comprehensible sections, avoiding extremely long lists, and multiple subsections which basically repeat what has already been said about other peoples or movements, are the reasons for what we focused on, not a judgment against any group or struggle, nor a limit on any issue or struggle.

We also made an effort to consolidate subject matter in one place wherever possible, for clarity. For example, we propose to consolidate all discussion of progressive religious sectors and freedom of religion into a new subsection: ‘Other Social Forces and Movements for Progress,’ bringing in some material which the draft currently has under the section on socialism.

Another difficulty is that life, society and struggle are all complex and interconnected, meaning we have to take the time to explain at least some of these inter-relationships, but we can’t explain them all. For example, when we say at one point that Bush is at fault, we also point out in other places the role of the transnationals. We can’t say everything everywhere. We urge careful reading of what is in the documents as a whole, not just one sentence.

Proposed Changes to the Draft There are a large number of changes we recommend be included in the final program. In your packets, you received a list of those changes, a four-page document. These changes are to strengthen the document, deepen its analysis, and clarify some points. I hope you have had time to review these.

I will discuss our proposed changes by section, but I won’t read the entire list, for reasons of time. Many of the changes we propose still require the development of exact wording. The majority of the changes we propose are in Sections 2, 3, and 4.

Proposed Changes by section Preface: will be deleted-it was only for the pre-Convention discussion Introduction: clarify our meaning by changing a phrase to ‘the working class and all working people’ which includes poor workers and their families and others. Add the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender community, the disabled, and intellectuals and professionals to the list of social forces, and peace, environmental, health care, education, and housing to the list of social movements our opposition to the ultra-right’s promotion of fear

Section 2-Capitalism, Exploitation and Oppression Significantly expand the list of chronic problems (spelled out in the handout), add language on the prison industry and the so-called justice system and our opposition to the death penalty. Note increases in capitalist crime subsection on the World Balance of Forces remove the partial list of reasons for the collapse of the Soviet Union, since this is still a matter of considerable debate and study. To our list of positive contributions of the Soviet Union, add its role in the defeat of fascism and the pressure its example of social programs placed on capitalist countries. more on progressive changes in Latin America, South Africa. Note disastrous health and malnutrition situation in Sub-Saharan Africa. discuss the need for a new economic order which makes it possible for countries to develop economically at the expense of imperialism, and the elimination of capitalist trade agreements. change our reference to socialist countries, since they are at different stages of political, social, and economic development on the path to socialism. Note that China, India, South Africa and Brazil are all developing as major economic powers, and that China’s economic growth has created trade opportunities for Cuba and other developing countries discuss in more detail the growing inter-imperialist rivalries and mass movements in European countries, and resistance to imperialism in the Middle East and Arab countries. Note more prominently the U.S. imperialist aggression specifically against Iraq and Afghanistan, though not a discussion of current details.

We propose to combine sections 3 and 4, with a new title: ‘The Working Class, Class Struggle, Democratic Struggles, and Forces for Progress’ more on the fight for unity in the labor movement, again, not with current details restate definitions of class and democratic struggles to clarify the differences and links between them note that democratic struggles are where alliances between the organized working class and other forces primarily happen, and that the democratic struggle to defeat the ultra-right helps advance the class struggle

in what was section 4 in the draft add LGBT community, the disabled, and seniors as also facing forms of special oppression add briefly on Mexican American history, make subsection on Puerto Ricans including support for independence and self-determination reorganize the material on indigenous peoples and colonies so there is one subsection on Native American Indians and another on other indigenous peoples including native Hawaiians and peoples in several outright U.S. colonies. add subsection on Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders change subsection title from ‘Post 9/11 discrimination’ to ‘Arabs and Middle Eastern Peoples’ add subsection on anti-Semitism

subsection on women add material about the increasing poverty of women, especially single heads of households mention growing links between the main women’s organizations and other elements of the coalition against the ultra-right briefly discuss the ideological attacks by the right on women’s role in the family and society

subsection on youth discuss the ideological attack on youth, the criminalization of the younger generation, and youth’s role in fighting militarism

in new section on ‘Other social forces and movements’ on Gay and Lesbian Rights change subsection title, and begin with discussion of fight for full equal rights note the increasingly progressive role of LGBT organizations and voters, and growing alliances with other forces for progress

on other movements clearly separate social forces from social movements add support for rights of disabled discuss senior issues and the senior movement briefly add the environmental movement add paragraphs on progressive culture and on the role of health care struggles

Section 5-Unity against the ultra-right make uniform our use of ‘Left-Center’ instead of also using ‘Center-Left’ more detail about full list of potential allies, more about the causes of the rise of the ultra-right and some divisions within the right in discussion of religious sectors, add more on progressive religious movements and consolidate all material on religious issues here add explanation of the political approach necessary to defeat terrorism

Section 6-Building the Anti-Monopoly Coalition make clear that the difference between stages is the changed balance of forces, making possible more offensive struggles in higher stages. Clarify that we are not suggesting limiting issues or organizing for more advanced demands include the LGBT community and the disabled as allies in this stage also revise list of anti-monopoly demands to add creation of a social fund to make up for historical oppression, and to specify the outlawing of racist propaganda. Make more explicit that any demands already won won’t be included in our proposals, and that we don’t suggest that all these struggles be postponed, in some mechanical fashion. We are already working for some of these advanced demands, and that prepare the ground for more general advances. End with a new subsection on ‘the immediate transition to Working people’s power’ with all material on the transition to socialism, the possibility of a peaceful transition, the danger of anti-democratic counter-revolution

Section 7-Bill of Rights Socialism at beginning, stress relationship of battles for democracy with the necessity of socialism more explicitly call for extending the Bill of Rights to include the rights to a job, health care, education, and to be free from discrimination make explicit that the fight for the complete elimination of all forms of special oppression is essential to socialism

Section 8-The Role of the Communist Party summarize the role of communist parties with the ultimate aim of winning working class political power include industrial concentration as part of our Party-building plans

This is a quick summary of the changes we propose to strengthen and improve the Draft. With the adoption of the draft plus these improvements, we will have a detailed strategic program connecting our struggles today with the fight for socialism.

What this Program is Not This is not a program in the sense of a series of immediate demands or an action program. Some suggestions which we agree with politically, we do not recommend because they go into detail more appropriate for the Main Political Resolution or for agitational literature-for example, while we agree about the importance of struggles for trade union unity, to speak in any detail about the current AFL-CIO situation in this program would be the wrong place-in just a few months or years, the situation may undergo a fundamental transformation in ways we can’t predict. Similarly, suggestions to add more vivid examples would add immediacy, but would also quickly date the program, so it would have too short a shelf life. While we don’t want to wait another 25 years to update this program, we’re also not going to revise it every six months.

Several clubs call for the final program to be shorter and more popularly written than the draft. We agree that the Party needs more mass literature in popular language, but we felt that this program needed to be more comprehensive and discuss more areas of struggle than a popular pamphlet could. As well, there have been many worthwhile and necessary suggestions which require additional language to implement, and we can’t add these important points and still make the whole document shorter.

Against Delay-what our unity is, what democracy is in relation to program adoption Some call for us to delay adoption of the program, to allow a longer period to debate and refine the final version. While we appreciate the intentions of these proposals, we think it would be a mistake to wait on adopting the basic strategic concepts embodied in the draft. We can’t have perfection, no matter how long we take. We won’t reach unanimity, no matter how long we take.

We shouldn’t confuse unity with unanimity. General agreement with strategy, commitment to unity of action on our basic program, participation in collective work, and reliance on Marxist analysis comprise the basis of our unity. We come from different histories and cultures, different personal experiences, different struggles, participate in different mass organizations, and we will never think identically.

Our Party needs to speak with one voice, but our members use their own words, their own experience of struggle, their own stories and understanding, in their daily work. We urge the delegates to focus on our areas of common agreement rather than search for points of difference, since there will always be minor differences of emphasis or analysis. We urge you to focus on major concepts, not what are essentially editorial details.

We also shouldn’t confuse debate with democracy. Full democracy guarantees the right of the minority to be heard, but it does not give the minority any veto power. Democracy means that the majority decides, and our mission depends on the right and responsibility of the Party to make decisions following democratic discussion and debate. On crucial issues where there is disagreement, we don’t postpone action until everyone agrees. We don’t want or need an endless debating society, but rather a democratic centralist organization which has wide-ranging discussion and debate, and which then commits to a strategy of struggle. The test of debate is only one step in the process. Marxist unity of theory and practice requires the implementation of that agreed-on strategy, requires the test of reality. Our Party’s democracy of action, of carrying out our collectively decided on path, is the real test of our strategy.

The breadth, depth, and range of our discussions on the draft, and the ways in which the Convention decisions are binding on the whole Party and its work, are proof of our commitment to democracy but also to centralist decision-making. This Convention is the highest body of our Party, and its decisions must shape our work. The strategy we vote on in this convention sets the general course for the work of members, clubs, districts, and the national leadership, and provides the framework for how we address new political challenges in the years ahead.

Formulations and Marxism While formulations are important, they are not the essence of the application of Marxism. Marxist analysis isn’t reified in any dogmatic recitation of particular words. Marxist analysis lies in the concepts themselves, in their application to practice, and in the feedback loop which refines and adapts theory to that practice, all made possible by a democratic centralist, working class party focused on real struggles. The nature and quality of our analysis doesn’t depend on whether or not we use the words or phrases ‘vanguard’ or ‘organized detachment’ to describe the role of the Party-I don’t believe that any of our recent programs has used ‘vanguard’ but rather explained the content of the indispensable role of the Party. The depth of our analysis is not contingent on how many times we repeat the phrase ‘class struggle.’ Our commitment to Marxism-Leninism can’t be measured by whether or not we have a few pages which attempt the impossible task of briefly explaining dialectical and historical materialism, political economy, and other crucial aspects of Marxism-Leninism. Just as this program is not a popular pamphlet, it should also not try to be a textbook on Marxism. It is the application of Marxism to the political, economic, historical, ideological, and social challenges we face.

Several issues which some allege are new and constitute a revision of Marxist concepts, in fact are not new at all. For example, though this draft pays more attention to Bill of Rights socialism and to the democratic struggle, all of our programs since 1954 have called for building on the revolutionary traditions embodied in the Bill of Rights, even with its bourgeois democratic limitations, and all our programs have insisted on the importance of democratic struggles both before and after socialism. Our Party has been using the phrase ‘Bill of Rights Socialism’ for well over a decade, and has adopted many reports and issued mass literature including that phrase. That doesn’t mean anyone has to agree with it, but please don’t claim it is a new, radical departure from past practice, don’t claim it is a fundamental change from what we have been doing and saying for years. It is not a basic change from the basis of our unity.

Rejected Proposals There are a number of proposals we recommend rejecting for political reasons, most already explained either earlier in this report or in Sam’s keynote: various proposals to reject the entire draft, or to return to our last program with some updating changes, or to start over proposals which reject building unity against the ultra-right as a separate stage of struggle the claim that the draft represents a retreat from Marxism-Leninism or from support for the struggle for full African American equality the concept that the draft represents an elevation of democratic struggle at the expense of class struggle, or a confusion of these two crucial, parallel, interlocked streams of struggle proposals to drop Bill of Rights Socialism the concept of a party that appoints itself as the leader of masses, separate and apart from our participation in the mass movements of today and tomorrow, and separate and apart from whether or not we actually win leadership roles in those movements

To be clear: our program does proclaim Marxism-Leninism as our ideology, does place the struggle for African American equality as crucial, and insists on the class struggle as fundamental.

Why we don’t cover all issues The draft program has been a way to talk about issues both of unity and differences, but not a way to resolve everything. We have significant differences on a number of issues. Some of them we will resolve here today by majority action, but in some areas, we need to continue to work, because of differing estimates or the need for study of actual conditions in more detail, areas such as the reasons for the collapse of the Soviet Union, or market socialism either for or against, or use of the phrase ‘general crisis of capitalism.’ We agree with many who say these areas are important, but we don’t think they affect the fundamentals of our strategic outlook embodied in this draft, nor do we want or need pitched battles over every issue of disagreement.

No one is claiming perfection for the draft, for our amendments, or for our final program. It is a work in process, like the struggle. We continue to welcome proposals for specific language and analysis improvements. But we must adopt the strategic program as the basis for our united work, the solid ground we stand on.

Summary Our Convention has the right, the responsibility, the mandate to make basic decisions about our policies. As the most authoritative body of the Party, we are charged with setting our basic direction, with setting the framework for our analysis and activity.

The final program, based on the decisions of this convention, will be an accomplishment of which we can be proud, a contribution to the unity and vision not only of our Party but also a contribution to the unity and vision of the broader struggles in which we participate, a solid foundation for Party growth and increased ideological and educational work, and a testimony to our unity, understanding, and commitment.

Taken as a whole, the draft, with needed improvements, is forward-looking and rooted in our participation in the main struggles of our class and its allies.

I firmly believe that the basic concepts of the Program are correct, but neither I, nor the committee, nor even the Convention are the last word-that will be spoken by the working class and allies in the process of real-world struggles. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and the proof of the Program is in the carrying out.

The Motion On behalf of the Program Committee and the out-going National Committee, I move adoption of the draft program with these improvements, with the exact final language to be approved by the first National Committee following the Convention.


    Marc Brodine is Chair of the Washington State CPUSA. A former AFSCME member and local officer, he is currently an artist and guitar player. Marc writes on environmental issues and answers many web site questions. Marc is the author of an extended essay on Marxist philosophy and the environment, titled Dialectics of Climate Change.

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