Sunday, April 2, 2017

Fidel Castro- How I became a Communist

The text is the transcript of a Questions & Answers session between Fidel Castro and students at the University of Concepción, Chile, on November 18 1971.
I was the son of a landowner—that was one reason for me to be a reactionary. I was educated in religious schools that were attended by the sons of the rich—another reason for being a reactionary. I lived in Cuba, where all the films, publications, and mass media were “Made in USA”—a third reason for being a reactionary. I studied in a university where out of fifteen thousand students, only thirty were anti-imperialists, and I was one of those thirty at the end. When I entered the university, it was as the son of a landowner—and to make matters worse, as a political illiterate!

…And mind you, no party member, no Communist, no socialist or extremist got hold of me and indoctrinated me. No. I was given a big, heavy, infernal, unreadable, unbearable textbook that tried to explain political economy from a bourgeois viewpoint—they called that political economy!
And that unbearable book presented the crises of overproduction and other such problems as the most natural things in the world. It explained how in Britain, when there was an abundance of coal, there were workers who didn’t have any, because by the inexorable natural and unchangeable laws of history, of society and nature, crises of overproduction inevitably occur, and when they do, they bring unemployment and starvation. When there’s too much coal, workers will freeze and starve!
So that landowner’s son, who had been educated by bourgeois schools and Yankee propaganda, began to think that something was wrong with that system, that it didn’t make sense…
As the son of a poor man who later became a big landowner, I had the advantage of at least living in the countryside, with the peasants, with the poor, who were all my friends. Had I been the grandson of a landowner, it’s quite possible that my father would have taken me to live in the capital, in a superaristocratic neighborhood and those positive factors at work on me wouldn’t have been able to survive the influence of the milieu. Egoism and other negative traits we humans beings have would have prevailed.
Luckily, the schools I studied in developed some of the positive factors. A certain idealistic rationality; a certain concept of good and evil, just and unjust; and a certain spirit of rebelliousness against impositions and oppression led me to an analysis of human society, and turned me into what I later realized was a utopian Communist. At the time, I still hadn’t been fortunate enough to meet a Communist or read a Communist document.
Then one day a copy of the Communist Manifesto—the famous Communist Manifesto!—fell into my hands and I read some things I’ll never forget… What phrases what truths! And we saw those truths every day!
I felt like some little animal that had been born in a forest which he didn’t understand. Then, all of a sudden, he finds a map of that forest—a description, a geography of that forest and everything in it. It was then that I got my bearings. Take a look now and see if Marx’s ideas weren’t just, correct, and inspiring. If we hadn’t based our struggle on them, we wouldn’t be here now! We wouldn’t be here!
Now then, was I a Communist? No. I was a man who was lucky enough to have discovered a political theory, a man who was caught up in the whirlpool of Cuba’s political crisis long before becoming a full-fledged Communist…
I went on developing. Afterwards, I had the opportunity to know imperialism more concretely than I had through Lenin’s book. I got to know imperialism—the worst and most aggressive of all… And I believe life has given me a better understanding of reality. It has made me more revolutionary, more socialist, more Communist…

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Greek Communist Party (KKE) prepares for convention, read their main document

Click on this link for the entire document:

The basic content of theme of the 20th Congress in a condensed form is as follows:

"The comprehensive strengthening of the KKE for the task of regrouping the labour movement and developing the social alliance in an anti-capitalist/anti-monopoly direction, in the struggle against imperialist war, for workers' power."

Monday, June 16, 2014

Why did Sam Webb distort this quote from Lenin?

“An end to wars, peace among the nations, the cessation of pillaging and violence — such is our ideal, but only bourgeois sophists can seduce the masses with this ideal, if the latter is divorced from a direct and immediate call for revolutionary action.”

―Vladimir Lenin

The Question of Peace (July–August 1915); Collected Works, Vol. 21, p. 293 - 1910s

Here is what Lenin wrote... how can anyone support Wall Street's leading imperialist warmonger--- Obama--- as Sam Webb has done, and then claim to be for peace and the cessation of violence and then have the unmitigated gall to quote Lenin?

The Question of Peace by V. I. Lenin

Written: Written in July–August 1915
Published: First published in the magazine Prolelorshaya Revolulsia No. 5 (28), 1921. Signed: Lenin. Published according to the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [197[4]], Moscow, Volume 21, pages 290-294.
Public Domain: You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

The question of peace as an immediate programme of action for the socialists, and in this connection the question of peace terms, presents a universal interest. One can only be grateful to Berner Tagwacht for its efforts to pose the question, not from the usual petty-bourgeois national angle, but from one that is genuinely proletarian and internationalist. The editorial note in No. 73 (“Friedenssehnsucht”), that the German Social-Democrats who wish for peace must break (sich lossagen with the policies of the Junker government, was excellent. Also excellent was Comrade A. P.’s[1] attack (Nos. 73 and 75) on the “pompous airs of impotent phrase-mongers” (Wichtigtuerei macht loser Schönredner), who are vainly attempting to solve the peace question from the petty-bourgeois point of view.

Let us see how this question should be posed by socialists.

The peace slogan can be advanced either in connection with definite peace terms, or without any conditions at all, as a struggle, not for a definite kind of peace, but for peace in general (Frieden ohne weiters). In the latter case, we obviously have a slogan that is not only non-socialist but entirely devoid of meaning and content. Most people are definitely in favour of peace in general, including even Kitchenor, Joffre, Hindenburg, and Nicholas the Bloodstained, for each of them wants an end to the war. The trouble is that every one of them advances peace terms that are imperialist (i.e., predatory and oppressive, towards other peoples), and to the advantage of his “own” nation. Slogans must be brought forward so as to enable the masses, through propaganda and agitation, to see the unbridgeable distinction between socialism and capitalism (imperialism), and not   for the purpose of reconciling two hostile classes and two hostile political lines, with the aid of a formula that “unites” the most different things.

To continue: can the socialists of different countries be united on definite terms of peace? If so, such terms must undoubtedly include the recognition of the right to selfdetermination for all nations, and also renunciation of all “annexations”, i.e., infringements of that right. If, however, that right is recognised only for some nations, then you are defending the privileges of certain nations, i.e., you are a nationalist and imperialist, not a socialist. If, however, that right is recognised for all nations, then you cannot single out Belgium alone, for instance; you must take all the oppressed peoples, both in Europe (the Irish in Britain, the Italians iii Nice, the Danes in Germany, fifty-seven per cent of Russia’s population, etc.) and outside of Europe,f i.e., all colonies. Comrade A. P. has done well to remind us of them. Britain, France, and Germany have a total population of some one hundred and fifty million, whereas the populations they oppress in the colonies number over four hundred million! The essence of the imperialist war, i.e., a war waged for the interests of the capitalists, consists, not only in the war being waged with the aim of oppressing new nations, of carving up the colonies, but also in its being waged primarily by the advanced nations, which oppress a number of other peoples comprising the ma/only o the earth’s population.

The German Social-Democrats, who justify the seizure of Belgium or reconcile themselves to it, are actually imperialists and nationalists, not Social-Democrats, since they defend the “right” of the German bourgeoisie (partly also of the German workers) to oppress the Belgians, the Alsatians, the Danes, the Poles, the Negroes in Africa, etc. They are not socialists, but menials to the German bourgeoisie, whom they are aiding to rob other nations. The Belgian socialists who demand the liberation and indemnification of Belgium alone are also actually defending a demand of the Belgian bourgeoisie, who would go on plundering the 15,000,000 Congolese population and obtaining concessions and privileges in other countries. The Belgian bourgeoisie’s foreign investments amount to something like three thousand   million francs. Safeguarding the profits from these investments by using every kind of fraud and machinations is the real “national interest” of “gallant Belgium”. The same applies in a still greater degree to Russia, Britain, France and Japan.

It follows that if the demand for the freedom of nations is not to be a false phrase covering up the imperialism and the nationalism of certain individual countries, it must be extended to all peoples and to all colonies. Such a demand, however, is obviously meaningless unless it is accompanied by a series of revolutions in all the advanced countries. Moreover, it cannot be accomplished without a successful socialist revolution.

Should this be taken to mean that socialists can remain indifferent to the peace demand that is coming from ever greater masses of the people? By no means. The slogans of the workers’ class-conscious vanguard are one thing, while the spontaneous demands of the masses are something quite different.

The yearning for peace is one of the most important symptoms revealing the beginnings of disappointment in the bourgeois lie about a war of “liberation”, the “defence of the fatherland”, and similar falsehoods that the class of capitalists beguiles the mob with. This symptom should attract the closest attention from socialists. All efforts must be bent towards utilising the masses’ desire for peace. But how is it to be utilised? To recognise the peace slogan and repeat it would mean encouraging “pompous airs of impotent [and frequently what is worse: hypocritical] phrase-mongers”; it would mean deceiving the people with illusion that the existing governments, the present-day master classes, are capable-without being “taught” a lesson (or rather without being eliminated) by a series of revolutions-of granting a peace in any way satisfactory to democracy and the working class. Nothing is more harmful than such deception. Nothing throws more dust in the eyes of the workers, nothing imbues them with a more deceptive idea about the absence of deep contradictions between capitalism and socialism, nothing embellishes capitalist slavery more than this deception does. No, we must make use of the desire for peace so as to explain to the masses that the benefits they expect from peace cannot be obtained without a series of revolutions.

An end to wars, peace among the nations, the cessation of pillaging and violence-such is our ideal, but only bourgeois sophists can seduce the masses with this ideal, if the latter is divorced from a direct and immediate call for revolutionary action. The ground for such propaganda is prepared; to practice that propaganda, one need only break with the opportunists, those allies of the bourgeoisie, who are hampering revolutionary work both directly (even to the extent of passing information to the authorities) and indirectly.

The slogan of self-determination of nations should also be advanced in connection with the imperialist era of capitalism. We do not stand for the status quo, or for the philistine Utopia of standing aside in great wars. We stand for a revolutionary struggle against imperialism, i.e., capitalism. Imperialism consists in a striving of nations that oppress a number of other nations to extend and increase that oppression and to repartition the colonies. That is why the question of self-determination of nations today hinges on the conduct of socialists of the oppressor nations. A socialist of any of the oppressor nations (Britain. France, Germany, Japan, Russia, the United States of America, etc.) who does not recognise and does not struggle for the right of oppressed nations to self-determination (i.e., the right to secession) is in reality a chauvinist, not a socialist.

Only this point of view can lead to a sincere and consistent struggle against imperialism, to a proletarian, not a philistine approach (today) to the national question. Only this point of view can load to a consistent application of the principle of combating any form of the oppression of nations; it removes mistrust among the proletarians of the oppressor and oppressed nations, makes for a united international struggle for the socialist revolution (i.e., for the only accomplishable regime of complete national equality), as distinct from the philistine Utopia of freedom for all small states in general, under capitalism.

This is the point of view adopted by our Party, i.e., by those Social-Democrats of Russia who have rallied around the Central Committee. This was the point of view adopted by Marx when he taught the proletariat that “no nation can he free if it oppresses other nations”. It was from this point of view that Marx demanded the separation of Ireland from   Britain, this in the interests of the freedom movement, not only of the Irish, but especially of the British workers.

If the socialists of Britain do not recognise and uphold Ireland’s right to secession, if the French do not do the same for Italian Nice, the Germans for Alsace-Lorraine, Danish Schleswig, and Poland, the Russians for Poland, Finland, the Ukraine, etc., and the Poles for the Ukraine-if all the socialists of the “Great” Powers, i.e., the great robber powers, do not uphold that right in respect of the colonies, it is solely because they are in fact imperialists, not socialists. It is ridiculous to cherish illusions that people who do not fight for “the right to self-determination” of the oppressed nations, while they themselves belong to the oppressor nations, are capable of practising socialist policies.

Instead of leaving it to the hypocritical phrase-mongers to deceive the people by phrases and promises concerning the possibility of a democratic peace, socialists must explain to the masses the impossibility of anything resembling a democratic peace, unless there are a series of revolutions and unless a revolutionary struggle is waged in every country against the respective government. Instead of allowing the bourgeois politicians to deceive the peoples with talk about the freedom of nations, socialists must explain to the masses in the oppressor nations that they cannot hope for their liberation, as long as they help oppress other nations, and do not recognise and uphold the right of those nations to self-determination, i.e., the freedom to secede. That is the socialist, as distinct from the imperialist, policy to be applied to all countries, on the question of peace and the national question. True, this line is in most cases incompatible with the laws punishing high treason-but so is the Basle resolution, which has been so shamefully betrayed by almost all the socialists of the oppressor nations.

The choice is between socialism and submission to the laws of Joffre and Hindenburg, between revolutionary struggle and servility to imperialism. There is no middle course. The greatest harm is caused to the proletariat by the hypocritical (or obtuse) authors of the “middle-course” policy.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Why did the CPUSA's Sue Webb lie to the International Communist Movement about Obama?

The lie:

"The emergence of an extreme far-right accelerated sharply in reaction to the overturning of the eight-year rule of the right wing with the 2008 election of Barack Obama, an African American and a liberal with a grassroots base and generally progressive agenda."

Is Barack Obama a "liberal?" No.

Is Barack Obama's agenda a "generally progressive agenda?" No.

Obama represents the most reactionary Wall Street imperialists, the monopolists. Obama's agenda is solidly reactionary without any progressive overtones except for the liberal and even left rhetoric he couches his reactionary agenda in. Mussolini was a similar master of linguistics.

To the extent Obama has a "grassroots base" it is because of deceit and those on the "left" like Sue Webb making up lies about him. These lies confuse people. These lies cause disorientation. These lies divide the left. These lies divide our movement especially the working class movement already being mislead to begin with.

Contribution from the Communist Party USA to the International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties, Nov. 8-10, 2013, Lisbon, Portugal (Delivered by Sue Webb)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Question of Socialism (and Beyond!) Is About to Open Up in These United States

This is a really interesting, enlightening, thought-provoking and educational read; anyone who is open-minded would do well to read this and use this article as a basis for further discussion even though much about real socialism is ignored just like some of the most successful co-operative enterprises are not brought forward and discussed--- perhaps because they are a little too close to real socialism and the Gar Alperovitz  fails to mention the success of the Red Finn Cooperatives and the International Workers Order. And it is interesting universal social programs are not broached like a National Public Health Care System and a National Public Child Care System--- apparently out of fear of challenging the capitalist "market system" for which Alperovitz must think humanity can't do completely without.

But, this is worthwhile discussing. 

Additional reading might include "Socialism: Utopian and Scientific" since some of this being advocated borders on the utopian and even anarchistic side:

Check out my blog for further information about socialism:

Alan L. Maki


The Question of Socialism (and Beyond!) Is About to Open Up in These United States

Friday, 12 April 2013 00:00By Gar AlperovitzTruthout | News Analysis

Capitalism Crisis.(Photo: Shira Golding Evergreen / Flickr)With Americans' interest in socialism rising, we need to seriously consider alternative designs to the current system, argues Alperovitz, in this practical critique of some known models.
Little noticed by most Americans, Merriam Webster, one of the world's most important dictionaries, announced a few months ago that the two most looked-up words in 2012 were "socialism" and "capitalism."
Traffic for the pair on the company's website roughly doubled from the year before. The choice was a "kind of no-brainer," observed editor at large, Peter Sokolowski. "They're words that sort of encapsulate the zeitgeist."
Leading polling organizations have found converging results among younger Americans. Two recent Rasmussen surveys, for instance, discovered that Americans younger than 30 are almost equally divided as to whether capitalism or socialism is preferable. Another Pew survey found those aged 18 to 29 have a more favorable reaction to the term "socialism" by a margin of 49 to 43 percent.
Note carefully: These are the people who will inevitably be creating the next American politics and the next American system.
As economic failure continues to create massive social and economic pain and a stalemated Washington dickers, search for some alternative to the current "system" is likely to continue to grow. It is clearly time to get serious about a different vision for the future. Critically, we need to be far more sophisticated about what a meaningful "systemic design" that might undergird a new direction (whether called "socialism" or whatever) would entail.
Classically, the central idea undergirding various forms of "socialism" (and there have been many, many forms, some of which use the terminology, some not) is democratic ownership of "the means of production," or "capital," or more simply, "productive wealth." Quite apart from questions of exploitation, systemic dynamics (and "contradictions"), the core idea is simple and straightforward: Those who own wealth - and the corporations that operate it - have far more power to control any system than those who don't.
In a nation in which a mere 400 people own more wealth than the bottom 180 million together, the point should be obvious. What is new in our time in history is that the traditional compromise position - namely progressive, or social democratic or liberal politics - has lost is capacity to offset such power even in the modest (compared, for instance, to many European states) ways the American welfare state once represented. Indeed, the emerging direction is to cut back previous gains in many areas - not to sustain or enlarge them. Even Social Security is now on the table for cuts.
Perhaps the most important reason for the decline of the traditional reform option is the decline of labor: Union membership has steadily decreased from roughly 35 percent of the labor force in 1954, to 11.3 percent now - a mere 6.6 percent in the private sector.
Along with this decay, and give or take an exception here and there, major trends in income and wealth, in civil liberties, in ecological devastation (and the release of climate-changing gases), in poverty and many other important indicators have been "going South" for several decades.
It is, accordingly, not surprising that dictionary look-ups and polls show interest in "something else." If, as is likely, the trends continue, that interest is also likely to increase. But what, specifically, might that "something else" entail? And is there any reason to hope - even as interest in the word "socialism" grows in the abstract - that we might move from where we are to "some other system" that might nurture equality, liberty, ecological sustainability, even global peace, more than the current decaying one we now have?
New Models of Socialist Structures
The classic model of socialism involved state (national) ownership of most large-scale capital and industry. But it is now clear to most observers that the concentration of such ownership in the state also commonly brings with it a concentration of political power as well; hence, the model can be detrimental to democracy as well as liberty (to say nothing, in real world experience, of the environment).
Alternative places to locate ownership have been suggested by different traditions: in cooperatives, in worker-owned firms, in municipalities, in regions, even in neighborhoods. Some of the advantages and challenges involved in the various forms are also well-known:
Starting at the ground level, there appear in virtually all studies to be very good reasons - for small and medium-size firms - to arrange ownership through cooperatives and worker-owned and self-managed enterprises. This is where direct democratic participation is (or can be) strongest, where a new culture can be developed and where a very different vision of work can evolve. Very solid proposals have been offered in such books as John Restakis' Humanizing the Economy: Co-operatives in the Age of Capital and Richard Wolff's Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism (on what he calls "worker self-directed enterprises").
On the other hand, for larger, significant-scale enterprises, worker-ownership may not solve some critical problems. When worker-owned large firms operate in a market-based system (as proposed by some progressive analysts), groups of workers in such firms may develop narrow interests that are not necessarily the same as those of the society as a whole. (It may be in their interests, for instance, to pollute the community's air and water rather than pay cleanup costs - especially when the firm faces stiff competition from other private or worker-owned companies.) Studies of worker-owned plywood companies in the Northwest found that all too easily workers developed narrow "worker-capitalist" attitudes (and conservative political views) as they competed in the marketplace. Nor does such ownership solve problems of inequality: Workers who "own" the garbage companies are clearly on a different footing, for instance, than specific groups of workers lucky enough to "own" the oil industry.
Often here - and in several other variants of socialist ideas - it is hoped that a new culture (or ideology) or progressive forms of taxation, regulation and other policies can offset the underlying tendencies of the models. However, there is reason to be skeptical of "after-the-fact" remedies that hope to counter the inherent dynamics of any model, since political power and interest group influence often follow from ownership irrespective of good intentions and the hope that progressive political ideals, or ideology, will save the day. If the attitudes nurtured by the plywood co-ops turn out to be the norm, then new worker-owned companies would likelynot generate strong support for regulations and taxation that help society at large but restrict or tax their own firm.
Let me stress that we simply do not know whether this might or might not be the case. It is, however, a mistake to assume either that socially responsible regulations can be "pasted on" to any institutional substructure (especially if they create costs to that substructure), or that institutions will automatically generate a sufficiently powerful cooperative culture and institutional power dynamic in favor of regulations and taxation even if it adds costs to their own institution and is detrimental to the material interests of those involved.
To get around some of these problems, some theorists have proposed democratically managed enterprises that are nonetheless owned by the broader society through one or another structural form. Although workers in the "self-managed" firm could gain from greater efficiency and initiative, major profits would go to the society as a whole. Still, note that in such cases, too, the incentive structure of the competitive market tends to create incentives to reduce costs - for instance, by externalizing environmentally destructive wastes. Also, when there are economies of scale, market-based systems generate very powerful pressures to adopt new technologies and prioritize growth (or lose out to other firms that also are under pressure to grow and adopt new technologies) - and this dynamic, too, runs counter to the needs of an ecologically sustainable future.) John Bellamy Foster's The Ecological Revolution, among other efforts, gives depth to the ecological foundational arguments further systemic designs must consider.
Designing for Community
We are clearly at the exploratory stage in connection with these matters, but the really important question is clearly whether a new model might inherently generate outcomes that do not require "after-the-fact" policy fixes or attempted fixes it is hoped the political system will supply. Especially since such "fixes" come out of a larger culture, the terms of reference of which are significantly set by the underlying economic institutions, and if these develop competitive and growth-oriented attitudes, the outcomes are likely to be different from those hoped for by progressive proponents. Lest we jump to any quick conclusions, it is again important to be clear that no one has as yet come up with a serious "model" that might both achieve efficiencies and self-directed management - and also work to create an equitable, ecologically sustainable larger culture and system. All have flaws.
Some of the problems and also some of the design features of alternatives, however, begin to suggest some possible directions for longer-term development:
For instance, a third model that has traditionally had some resonance is to locate primary ownership of significant scale capital in "communities" rather than either the state or specific groups of workers - i.e. in geographic communities and in political structures that are inclusive of all the people in the community. (By definition geographic communities inherently include not only the workers who at any moment in time may only include half the population, but also stay-at-home, child-rearing males or females, the elderly, the infirm, children and young people in school - in short the entire community.)
Community models also inherently "internalize externalities" - meaning that unlike private enterprise or even worker-owned companies that may have a financial interest in lowering costs by not cleaning up environmentally destructive practices, community-owned firms are in a different position: If the community chooses to continue such practices, it is polluting itself, a choice it can then examine from a comprehensive perspective - and in a framework that does not inherently pose the interests of the firm against community-wide interests.
Variations on this model include the "municipal socialism" that played so important a role in early 20th century American socialist politics - and is still evident in more than 2,000 municipally owned utilities, a good deal of new municipal land development and many other projects. "Social ecologist" Murray Bookchin gave primary emphasis to a municipal version of the community model in works likeRemaking Society: Pathways to a Green Future, and Marxist geographer David Harvey has begun to explore this option as well. (As Harvey emphasizes, any "model" would likely also have to build up higher level supporting structures and could not function successfully were it left to simply float in the free market without some larger supporting system.)
Current suggestive practical developments in this direction include a complex or "mixed" model in Cleveland that involves worker co-ops that are linked together and subordinated to a community-wide, nonprofit structure - and supported by something of a quasi-planning system (directed procurement from hospitals and universities that depend in significant part on public financial support). An earlier model involving joint community and worker ownership was developed by steelworkers in Youngstown, Ohio, in the late 1970s.
The Jewish theologian Martin Buber also offered a community-oriented variation based on cooperative ownership of capital in one geographic community. He saw this "full cooperative" (and confederations of such communities) as an answer the problems both of corporate capitalism and of state socialism. Buber's primary practical experimental demonstration was the Israeli cooperative commune (kibbutz), but the principle might well be applied in other forms. Karl Marx's discussion of the Paris Commune (and of the Russian village commune or mir) is also suggestive of possibilities in this direction.
In the various community models there is also every reason to expect that specific communities will develop "interests" that may or may not be the same as those of the society as a whole. (Again think of communities located on top of important natural resources versus others not so favored.) The formula based on community ownership, however, may have a potential advantage that might under certain circumstances - and with clear intent - help at least partly offset the tendency for any structural form to produce narrow interest-group ideas and power. This is the simple fact that a fully inclusive structure that nurtures ideals of "community" - as opposed to ideas of individual ownership, on the one hand, or worker-group ownership of specific firms, on the other - may offer greater possibilities for building a common culture of community, one in which norms of equal treatment and common interest are inherently generated by the structural design itself (at least within communities and possibly beyond.)
To the extent this is so, or could be nurtured, a systemic design based on communities (or joint worker-community ownership) might both allow for decentralization and also for the generation of common values. A subset of issues also involves smaller scale geographic community ownership, in the form of neighborhoods. And such a model might also include a mix of smaller scale worker-owned and cooperative forms, and even (larger scale) state and nationally owned public enterprise as well - a structural form that is now far more common and efficient in many countries around the world than is widely understood.
Questions of Scale
Social ownership by neighborhoods, municipalities, states, and, of course, nations (all with or without some formula of "joint" worker ownership) are not the only models based on the fact that geography is commonly inherently inclusive of all parties - and therefore potentially capable of helping nurture inclusive norms and inclusive cultures. A final formula (for the moment) for significant scale and ultimately large industry is also based on geography, but at a different level still. This attempts to resolve some of these problems (and that of genuine democratic participation) by defining the key unit as a region, a formula urged by the radical historian, the late William Appleman Williams, as especially appropriate to a very large nation like the United States. It is not often realized how very different in scale the United States is from most European nations: Germany, for instance, can be tucked into a geographic area the size of Montana. Nor have many faced the fact that our current 315 million-person population is likely to reach 500 million over coming decades (and possibly a billion by the end of the century, if the US Census Bureau's high estimate were to be realized.) During the Depression, various regional ownership models like the Tennessee Valley Authority were proposed, some of which were far more participatory and democratic in their design than the model that is currently in place. Legislation to create seven large-scale, publicly-owned regional efforts was, in fact, supported by the Roosevelt Administration at certain points in time.
Many other variations, of course, also have been proposed. The Parecon model, for instance, would attempt to replace a system of market exchanges with a system in which citizens would iteratively rank their preferences for consumer goods along with proposed amounts of proffered labor time. Proposals, like that of David Schweickart in After Capitalism, pick up on forms of worker self management, but also emphasize national ownership of the underlying capital. Seth Ackerman, in arecent essay for Jacobin, urges a worker-controlled model, but stresses the need for independent sources of publicly controlled investment capital. Other thinkers, like Michael Leobowitz in his book, The Socialist Alternative: Real Human Development, have taken inspiration from Latin America's leftward movement, and especially from Venezuela, to articulate a participatory vision of socialism rooted in democratic and cooperative practices. Joel Kovel in The Enemy of Nature argues that the impending ecological crisis necessitates a fundamental change away from the private ownership of earth's resources.
And, of course, the question of planning versus markets needs to be put on the list of design challenges. Planning has its own long list of challenges - including, critically, who controls the planners and whether participatory forms of planning may be developed drawing on smaller scale emerging experience and also on a much more focused understanding of what needs to be planned and what ought to be independent of public direction. (Also how the market can be used to keep a planning system in check.)
As noted, there is also the question of enterprise scale - a consideration that suggests possible mixes of different forms of social ownership: where to locate the ownership and control of very large scale firms is one thing; very small another; and intermediate still another. Most "socialist" models these days also allow for an independent sector that includes small independent capitalist firms, especially in the innovative high-tech sector.
Related to all this is the question of function: The development and management of land, for instance, is commonly best done through a geographic institution - i.e. a neighborhood or municipal land trust. Public forms of banking and finance tend also to be best anchored in (though operated independently of) cities, states and nations. Though medical practices must be local, social or socialized health systems tend to work best in areas that include large populations - i.e. states or nations. In some cases, quite apart from efficiency considerations, ecological considerations make regions especially appropriate. (One of the rationales, originally, for the Tennessee Valley Administration had to do with managing a very challenging river system.)
On the Ground Now
Finally, there is much to learn from models abroad - particularly Mondragon, on the one hand, and the worker-cooperative and other networks in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy, on the other. The first, Mondragon, has demonstrated how an integrated system of more than 100 cooperatives can function effectively (and in areas of high technical requirement) - and at the same time maintain an extremely egalitarian and participatory culture of institution control. The Italian cooperatives have demonstrated important ways to achieve "networked" production among large numbers of small units - and further, to use the regional government in support of the overall effort. Though the experience of both is extraordinary, simple extrapolations may or may not be possible: Both models, it is also important to note, developed out of historical contexts that helped create intense cultural and political solidarity - contexts also of extraordinary repression by fascist regimes, Franco in Spain, Mussolini in Italy. Finally, although the Emilia Romagna cooperatives are effective in their use of state policy, both models are best understood as institutional "elements" that may contribute to a potential national solution. Neither claims to, or attempts to, develop a coherent overall "systemic" design for a nation.
These various abstract considerations come down to earth when one realizes that there is far more going on, practically, on the ground related to the ownership forms than most people realize - a great deal that is not covered by the increasingly hobbled and financially constrained press. For a start, around 130 million Americans - 40 percent of the population - are members of one or another form of cooperative, a traditional collective ownership form that now includes large numbers of credit unions, agricultural co-ops dating back to the 1930s, electrical co-ops prevalent in many rural areas, insurance co-ops, food co-ops, retail co-ops (such as the outdoor recreational company REI and the hardware purchasing cooperative ACE), health-care co-ops, artist co-ops and many, many more.
There are also many, many worker-owned companies structured in ways different from traditional co-ops - indeed, around 11,000 of them, involving 10.3 million people, in virtually every sector, some very large and sophisticated. Technically, these companies are structured as ESOPs (Employee Stock Ownership Plans) - and in fact 3 million more individuals are involved in worker-owned companies of this kind than are members of unions in the private sector. (Though there have been a variety of problems with this form, there has also been evolution with greater worker control and also experiments with unionization that in the future might suggest important additional possibilities.) Finally and critically, the United Steelworkers have put forward a new direction in union-worker co-ops.
There are also thousands of "social enterprises" that use democratized ownership to make money and use both the money and the enterprise itself to achieve a broader social purpose. By far the most common social enterprise is the traditional Community Development Corporation, or CDC. Nearly 5,000 have long been in operation in almost every US city of significant size. For the most part, CDCs have served as low-income housing developers and incubators for small businesses. Early on in the 50-year history of the movement, however, a different, larger vision was in play - one that is still present in some of the more advanced CDC efforts and one that suggests additional possibilities for the future.
Still another form of democratized ownership involves growing numbers of "land trusts" - essentially neighborhood or municipal corporations that own housing and other property in ways that prevent gentrification and turn development profits into support of low- and moderate-income housing. One of the best known is the Champlain Housing Trust in Burlington, Vermont, which traces its modest beginnings to the early 1980s and now provides accommodation for more than 2,000 households. Hundreds of such collective ownership efforts now exist, and new land trusts are now being established on an expanding, ongoing basis in diverse contexts and cities all over the country.
Since 2010, twenty states have also considered legislation to establish public banks like that of North Dakota, which has operated with strong public support for more than nine decades. Approximately 20 states have considered legislation to establish single-payer health-care plans. Nor should we forget that the United States government de facto nationalized General Motors and AIG, one of the largest insurance companies in the world, during the recent crisis. It started selling them back once the profits began to roll, but in future crises, different outcomes might be ultimately achieved if practical experiments at the local and state level begin to create experiences that might be generalized to national models when the time is right - especially if the current system continues to decay and deteriorate. (Many of the national models that became the core programs of the New Deal were incubated in the state and local "laboratories of democracy" in the decades prior to the time national political possibilities opened up).
At this stage of development, there is every reason to experiment with many forms - a "community-sustaining" direction that I have suggested might be called a "Pluralist Commonwealth" to emphasize the plurality of common or democratized wealth-holding efforts.
Getting Serious
I obviously do not hope in this brief sketch to try to offer a fully developed alternative. My goal is much simpler: First, to suggest that the questions classically posed by the word "socialism" that is now coming back into public use need to be discussed and debated by a much broader group than has traditionally been concerned with these issues; and second, to suggest further that if one looks closely there is evidence that some of the potential real world elements of a solution may be developing in ways that might one day open the way to a very American and very populist variant (whether called "socialist" or not). It is time, accordingly, to discuss the deeper design issues carefully and thoughtfully and in ways that involve a much larger share of the very large numbers of people, beyond the traditional left, who the polls and dictionary inquiries suggest may be interested in these questions.
Even as we learn more and more about the various forms and their positive and negative features and tendencies, hopefully we can engage in a far-reaching and thoughtful debate about how a new model might be created that is both systemically sophisticated and also appropriate to American culture and traditions - a model that nurtures democracy and a culture of inclusiveness and ecological sanity. Many serious and committed people on the left have been struggling with these issues and keeping the critical questions alive for decades. Even though the way forward, politically, is obviously daunting, difficult and uncertain, it is time to widen the dialogue in ways that include the millions of Americans who now seem increasingly open to the challenge.
Nor should the pessimism of the moment undercut what needs to be done: Anyone looking at Latin America 30 years ago might easily have been judged foolish to think change could occur - and that debate concerning these kinds of questions was important. Yet even during and through the pain - and the torture and dictatorship - new beginnings somehow were made in many areas and by many people. Our own course may be difficult, but easy pessimism is an all-too-common escape mechanism to avoid responsibility. It is also comforting: If one buys the judgment that nothing can ever be done, that it is impossible, one has an excuse not to try and also not to try to reach out to others. The fact is the failings of the present system are themselves forcing more and more people to explore new ideas and develop new experiments and new political efforts.
The important points to emphasize are three: [1] There is openness in the public, and especially among a much, much broader group than many think, to discussing these issues - including even the word "socialism;" [2] It is accordingly time to get very serious about some of the challenging substantive and theoretical issues involved; and [3] There are also many on-the-ground experiments, and projects and developments that suggest practical directions that are under way, but also that a new politics (whatever it is called) might begin to build upon them if it got serious.


Gar Alperovitz, Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland and co-founder of the Democracy Collaborative, is the author of the forthcoming What Then Must We Do? Straight Talk About The Next American Revolution (Chelsea Green, May Day 2013).


Cooperatives Over Corporations
By Jim Hightower, Truthout | Op-Ed
Cooperatives and Community Work Are Part of American DNA
By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers , Truthout | Op-Ed

Friday, March 29, 2013

Yes; why not have a discussion?

Problems of Vanguardism

by PETER CAMEJO on MARCH 28, 2013
Originally published October 1, 1984, as “Problems of Vanguardism: In Defense of Leninism,” a North Star Network discussion article — During the youth radicalization of the late 1960s an entire generation in the United States was transformed politically. Mass currents of opinion critical of imperialism, racism, sexism and other aspects of capitalism were generated, often expressed in powerful single-issue movements. Among the most committed, tens of thousands became interested in the world socialist movement.
Peter Camejo speaking at the June 1970 national anti-war conference in Cleveland which voted to establish the Peace Action Coalition. Photograph is taken from Peter’s Pathfinder pamphlet Liberalism, Ultraleftism or Mass Action, 1970.
Camejo speaking at the June 1970 national anti-war conference in Cleveland which voted to establish the Peace Action Coalition.
The youth of the 1960s and early 1970s sought models and found the Soviet Union wanting. They were far more attracted to the ultra-left rhetoric of Maoism or the “purity” of “Trotskyist” formations. This attraction was in part due to the natural ultra-left romanticism of a generational radicalization based largely on campuses. The ultra-leftism of the 1960s was not born of defeat and despair, which have characterized most ultra-left currents in the past. The energy of the 1960s and 1970s is, in fact, far from exhausted. The impact of this is reflected in every progressive mass struggle in the United States today.
But the road forward proved to be far more difficult than the simplistic imitation of other revolutionary experiences seemed to promise. The generation of the sixties failed to consolidate a new revolutionary vanguard or movement in the United States. This is the only honest conclusion that can be drawn. Maoism quickly proved to be quite different from its followers’ expectations. The Mao-Nixon accord in 1971 and China’s subsequent rightist policies broke the infatuation with Maoism. Maoist and other efforts to proselytize North American industrial workers took on an infantile ultra-leftism whose practice and rhetoric lacked connection to the America of the 1970s. These attempts led to failure in spite of some temporary and partial exceptions.
Gradually a dichotomy has developed between the sectarianism of formations claiming to be Leninist vanguards and mass struggles. The remnants of these vanguard-type formations have been caught in a methodology that guarantees their self-isolation. Others, repelled, have ended up questioning the very need for a revolutionary vanguard, Leninism, or even a socialist future for the United States.
Many chose to remain active solely in issue-oriented formations, surrounded by the pressures of living in a country with a powerful and solidly institutionalized imperialist ruling class. Many of those seeking refuge in single-issue work inevitably became subject to rightward pressures. The growth of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is one organizational expression of this shift.
The dichotomy between choosing dogmatic–sectarian formations or rightist–opportunist politics has widened. Undercutting this process has been the influence stemming from revolutionary victories in Central America and the consistent revolutionary policies and idealism of the Cubans and others like them.
A great deal of rethinking has been going on in the left in the United States in recent years. One of the most promising developments has been the growth of solidarity with Central America as well as the massive impact of Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition electoral campaign. The rejection of sectarianism by new forces is often associated with prejudices and often combined with the feeling that while revolutions are possible in the Third World, there is no hope for revolutionary changes within the advanced industrial countries, at least not in the United States. Such a view can lead activists to look away from the broad masses of working people for political solutions. Instead, a logic of despair can influence one to give up one’s own people. This invariably leads one to look for allies within the ruling class and function under the illusion that maybe some wing of the ruling class remains historically progressive.
The sectarianism and ultra-leftism of many of the formations that comprise our left only help reinforce the rightist danger. In this document we wish to argue that what is wrong with the method of the sectarians has nothing to do with Leninism. We do so with the goal of winning the newer generation to the need to build a revolutionary movement in our own country, but with methods diametrically opposite to those promoted by the sectarians. In furthering this task a better understanding of the errors of the sectarians can only help create interest in a genuine revolutionary movement.


Organizations considering themselves “the vanguard” in the United States, as a whole, have an ultra-left and dogmatic interpretation of Leninism. In their view, Lenin’s concept of a proletarian vanguard party has been reduced to the idea that all that is needed is a “correct program” and a democratic-centralist organization. After all, isn’t that what Lenin did? He drafted a program and assembled a cadre around that program.
What is missing in such an over-simplified concept of Leninism, however, is the living class struggle.


The starting point of Lenin’s conception of organization was the class struggle itself. Lenin saw that, as struggles developed, there spontaneously appeared dedicated and committed leaders among those suffering exploitation and oppression. Out of these more politically advanced elements he sought to mold a genuine vanguard that could unify and lead in action the working class, along with other social strata suffering oppression.
Lenin opposed building a party of all workers. He saw that such a formation would have a rather confused political orientation. Instead, he argued for building a party based on the more advanced leaders and activists generated by the ongoing struggles.
By 1905, Lenin characterized the class struggle in Russia as the world’s most advanced revolutionary mass movement ever. He set as his task the consolidation of a revolutionary vanguard, unified around a class-struggle orientation. Lenin functioned within the framework of the mass movement unfolding in Europe at that time, the Second International and its affiliated socialist parties.
To Lenin, both the party’s program and the organisation of the revolutionary vanguard were directly tied to involvement in the mass movement. Lenin also emphasized that both programmatic and organizational norms evolve with circumstances in the class struggle.
Those who separate Lenin’s conception of a vanguard from its roots in mass work turn Leninism into sect building based on abstract ideology. No “vanguard” in the United States is currently leading any mass movement. In most cases, our “vanguards” don’t even participate in them.
Yet they like to insist that they have “the” program and a disciplined cadre that, taken together, qualify them for recognition as “the” Leninist vanguard or, at least, the “embryo of the vanguard”.


Organizations, some having been around for 50 or 100 years, that claim to have “the” program are, by definition, wrong. For those seeking to create a vanguard formation in the United States, developing an effective program and strategy must involve, first, recognizing the existence of mass struggles and, second, directly participating in them. Those who deduce their program from intellectual study and assemble cadre in order to wait and be ready when the moment arrives make an idealist error. They reject the materialist starting point of Marxism.
Banner-raising and program-mongering are no substitute for leadership.
Banner-raising and program-mongering are no substitute for leadership.
For sectarians, the ideas (program) come first, divorced from existing struggles. Their methods lead to the emergence of dogmatic sects whose loyalty is to their own ideology. In this manner, Marxism is reduced to an intellectual exercise involving debates and polemics to prove the “correctness” of one theory over and against another, instead of being a science to promote living struggles.
The first loyalty of revolutionaries must always be tied to the living struggles. Lenin insisted that genuine discipline was impossible without directly leading mass revolutionary struggles, and he predicted that those who pretend to develop revolutionary discipline while remaining isolated would end up phrase-mongering and clowning. Anyone acquainted with the U.S. left knows that we have sufficient quantities of both.
The misconception that having the “correct program” will ultimately assure victory, regardless of one’s direct participation in struggle, has led to a series of policies and methods that condemn political formations to a sectarian existence. Let us look briefly at a few examples.


A trademark of sectarians is their manner of “intervention”. Some members of a group will be assigned to intervene among formations attempting to reach people on one issue or another. The real goal of these interventions is the cannibalization of movements and organizations in order to gain one more adherent to the sect. If the sect suddenly decides that the issue or group is no longer conducive to sect-building, its members will disappear as suddenly as they appeared. Sects approach struggles in the real world as though they were visitors from another planet checking out an alien environment.


Small groups of fewer than 3,000 members, often with fewer than 1,000, will write great polemics attacking each other or some minority within their own group to defend their “program”. They regard this practice as “being Leninist”. After all, didn’t Lenin fight against all forms of obfuscation and attempts to revise or water down a Marxist program?
Yes, of course, Lenin polemicized. However, he focused his efforts against currents directly leading, or rather misleading, mass movements or currents whose views were affecting the genuine vanguards of those mass struggles. Lenin didn’t waste time on polemics with groups that had no relationship to the living events of the day.
Most polemics in the U.S. left today involve either a discussion of activities being carried out by forces on some other continent or about some historical event. For instance, a battle will rage in the Middle East and, as with all mass struggles, the forces involved and the issues posed will be quite complex. What then occurs among our home-grown sectarians is an orgy of commentary. Each group comments on the events in the real world with the goal of confirming their particular views. They patiently point out the errors of those actually struggling in the Middle East and kindly offer their moral solidarity. This is usually climaxed with a headline saying something like “U.S. OUT” or some similar phrase that terminates their obligation to the real struggle.
The opening fray of comments soon leads to documents and pamphlets or even entire books. These are aimed to expose the commentary of other groups inside the United States or, at times, minorities from within their own groups. Of course, neither these critics nor the condemned are in any way involved in the struggles they are debating. Such debates are considered a Leninist involvement in politics. In actuality, they are a form of abstention from participation in real living struggles.


Another key difference between the methods of the U.S. sects and those of Lenin (or the Central American revolutionaries) centers on the question of which political points demarcate revolutionary and reformist currents.
In the United States, which is the center of world imperialism, points of demarcation between revolutionary and reformist currents will necessarily involve many factors, both of a national and an international character. The process through which a real ideological struggle unfolds, however, must be directly related to the living class struggle. Differences can only be resolved if we use a non-sectarian method of debate and discussion, one that bases points of demarcation on real struggles.
Undoubtedly, the leadership created by mass struggles will be a collective leadership, reflecting the complexities of the U.S. class struggle and the various exploited and oppressed layers. A genuine “correct program” — that is, one that is derived from reality — will develop through the conflict of ideas, permanently adjusted through experience. If an atmosphere tolerant of differences and debate does not exist among revolutionaries, they will find it difficult to respond to changing conditions or to correct errors. We must also have the patience and humility to recognize that people may change their views over time, as many of us have done.
We are talking here not about intellectual exercises called debates or faction fights but rather of the constructive clash of ideas within a revolutionary framework. Such debates are impossible under the present dogmatic–sectarian misconceptions of Leninism incorporated in such claims as: “We represent the continuity of the movement; therefore, we have the correct program.”
U.S. revolutionaries need norms that permit the kind of discussions Lenin’s party held. Those debates rarely led to splits or divisions. In fact, Lenin, the central leader of the revolutionary current, was on occasion voted down. This is something quite inconceivable for the central leadership of any of our many U.S. “vanguards”.

The class analysis of differences

The intolerance of existing U.S. “vanguards” towards differences inside their own ranks flows directly from their idealist errors regarding the relationship between program and organization on the one hand and mass struggles on the other.
The belief that one has the “correct program” leads straight to the corollary that political differences must reflect the pressures of a different class. After all, a “correct program” can only reflect the interests of the proletariat and, since there is only one proletariat and one program, different views must inevitably be rooted in some other class.
Since the claims of sectarian to the title of “the vanguard” and “the Marxist-Leninist party” are synonymous with their having the “correct program” as well as “historical continuity with Marx and Lenin”, they cannot for long tolerate other groups or currents that hold different positions on major questions, or even different interpretations of history.
When groups that have little contact with mass struggles develop differences that cannot possibly be tested in practice, the differences quickly escalate into a challenge to the whole premise of the existing “vanguard” formation. Since they mechanically see questions as interrelated, even small differences become crucial in their eyes.
What usually follows is a “class analysis” of the views of one’s “opponents”, combined with a “class analysis” of the opponent as a person of a certain social grouping. In every case, it is “discovered” that the opponent represents an “alien class pressure”, coming from the petty bourgeoisie. The opponent is thus outside the framework of the working class movement, and can be treated accordingly.
What is the result? More often than not, two “vanguards” each calling the other “petty bourgeois”, emerge. As time passes and splits grow in number, we encounter an ever-increasing number of “vanguards”, each with its own particular explanation of history and events.

One party, one class

One argument that is often heard in the polemics of sectarians is that only one party can truly represent the working class. In Russia, it was the Bolsheviks. All other Russian parties turned out to reflect alien class forces.
Thus, our U.S. “vanguards” conclude, only one organization can represent the U.S. working class.
Yet, today we see various organizations, coming from diverse backgrounds, working together in El Salvador within the FMLN — and all are genuine revolutionaries. This unity reflects the concrete process through which a vanguard developed in El Salvador. The experience in the Soviet Union is not the only form that history has provided for the development of a vanguard.
Genuine revolutionaries can have differences for the simple reason that revolutionaries can be wrong. In fact, all revolutionaries are wrong on one or another question at some time, and not merely with regard to secondary questions. Any honest historical study will show this to be the case. How could it be otherwise? We are all products of our societies, in spite of our dedication to social struggles.
Did Lenin reflect alien class pressures or stop being a proletarian because he opposed the soviets (mass united worker, peasant, and soldier councils) when they first appeared in 1905? Was Lenin no longer a revolutionary because he counterposed building a revolutionary party to building the soviets, or for later changing his mind and supporting soviets but insisting that the bourgeoisie be included in them?
Was Lenin no longer a revolutionary because he thought the revolution was in an upswing in early 1906 when it was in fact clearly declining? Or was Trotsky a hopeless petty bourgeois for disagreeing with Lenin on organizational questions for a whole period or for believing that the USSR would be crushed unless Europe went socialist? Was Che Guevara no longer a proletarian revolutionary because there were weaknesses in his attempt to project a road to victory in Latin America in his foquista orientation (emphasizing the creation of small, rural guerilla bands)?
Revolutionaries are people. Only with an anti-cult attitude can we form a genuine collective leadership and develop the modesty and humility necessary to listen, think, and act collectively. It is only when we demystify revolutionaries will it become possible to genuinely recognize their great contributions.

The our-day-will-come syndrome

Sectarian formations teach their followers that their day will come. Since their “program” will triumph when conditions ripen, their task is to accumulate cadres and wait. They prepare mainly by raising their political level (translation: convincing themselves that their program is correct and their leadership profound). They are not upset that they are not in the leadership of any struggles, since it is not yet the time for revolutionaries. The objective conditions, you see, have yet to ripen. This concept of “our day will come” or cheering other revolutions without looking at the potential of our own working class and oppressed layers has religious overtones of looking for a promised land.
Such a concept is neither Leninist nor materialist. There is today in the United States an ongoing class struggle that takes a variety of forms. A genuine vanguard would lead that struggle at whatever level possible.
No better example could be given than the need to defend the Central American revolution. This is not a task that can be postponed until conditions are ripe. We cannot wait until we have a better, more proletarian anti-intervention movement. We have to fight on every level possible, and those who lead such struggles today are the genuine beginnings of a vanguard.


What really, after all, is a program? A program is not a written instruction manual on how to make a revolution in your country, nor is it the “best” historical interpretation of all past events. (One fast give-away of sectarians is their preoccupation with proving their politically correct genealogy.)
A program is, rather, the working out of the tasks before the working class and its allies to liberate themselves from the exploitation and oppression they suffer under capitalism. A program also includes a strategy to eliminate racism, sexism, poverty, unemployment and endless other human tragedies of a society that places profits above human needs.
A program is a general guide, an outline of a strategy for liberation. It is based on lessons from history, but it is not history itself. By definition, a program avoids making historical interpretations except on the broad outlines required by the living struggle. A program is the attempt to generalize the lessons from the history of the class struggle and to apply them to the present epoch. A program is both specific, by incorporating national considerations, and general, by including the international framework.
The program that is of any use evolves. It must emerge not only from generalizations from past struggles, but from the concrete manifestations of present struggles. A movement not completely immersed in mass struggles is incapable of developing an effective program.

A program for the United States

A program for the Third American Revolution clearly evolves over time. A program written in 1984, as opposed to one written in 1954, would include a different spectrum of questions, though many fundamental considerations would remain the same. Issues that have evolved — or, where our understanding has evolved — include the oppression of women, the treatment of homosexuals, problems related to pollution and the environment, the development of new sectors of the working class, and the tasks facing oppressed nationalities. To these, we can add the mass awareness of the growing threat of nuclear war and the new immigration from Latin America, Asia, and other parts of the world.
The fact that the program evolves and that there are many aspects to this process in no way means that the struggle in the United States does not remain fundamentally between those who own capital and those who work for a living. Similarly, to specify the enormous weight of the struggles of oppressed nationalities and women, or to raise issues that cut across class lines such as the struggle against the threat of nuclear destruction, is not to reject the underlying class struggle, but rather to make it more balanced and concrete.

The example of Nicaragua

In order to illustrate the difference between Lenin’s views and the views so prevalent among the US “vanguard” groups, it is useful to look at an actual revolutionary experience. Nicaragua is better known by the present generation of the U.S. left than previous revolutions (We could just as well take up other examples, including that of the Soviet Union, since the lessons to be drawn are quite similar, in spite of some important differences in form.)
In Nicaragua, the fundamental solution to all social problems was to win self-determination by driving U.S. imperialism out of the country. This took the form of a struggle against the Somoza dynasty.
The FSLN began with only a handful of individuals as the left wing of the largest, and most broad-based movement in Nicaraguan history, the struggle against the Somoza dictatorship. The FSLN founders offered a program based on proletarian methods of struggle (minus the rhetoric), that is, a definitive struggle against Somoza and Somocismo, and not one of a rearrangement of imperialist rule.
They sought to rid Nicaragua of Somoza through direct mobilization of the workers and peasants, together with whatever allies could be won among other social layers. They fought to build a broadly united mass movement based on specific demands. Through this process, they grouped the vanguard elements created by the anti-Somoza struggle.
They avoided interjecting divisive and unnecessary conditions for unity, carefully choosing the points of demarcation from other currents in the anti-Somoza stuggle. In stark contrast to the orientation of every U.S. formation calling itself a “vanguard”, the FSLN never sought complete agreement on interpretations of history, much less made such an agreement a requirement to be part of the developing vanguard in Nicaragua.
What exactly was the program of the FSLN? Their program was one of ending Somocismo and establishing a government truly representative of the working people of Nicaragua. Their strategy was the removal of Somocismo through direct action rather than Somoza’s removal through negotiations with imperialism, that policy being the strategy of the reformist wing of the anti-Somicistas. They sought to rely on the workers and the peasants, the two forces they felt would be willing to carry out a decisive and committed struggle to end Somoza’s rule, and to defend genuine self-determination.
Did the FSLN make errors? Of course. Only those who abstain from the complexity of the real living struggles make but one error — their abstention. Undoubtedly, the FSLN made many errors of both a right and left nature. Let us consider for a moment the sad consequence for Nicaragua if Carlos Fonseca and other founders of the FSLN had followed the methods of our U.S. “vanguards”.
Suppose the FSLN founders had intellectualized their “program”, requiring agreement on interpretations of every faction fight in the history of the workers’ movement? What if, instead of developing the lines of demarcation between the FSLN and other currents on Nicaraguan issues, they had proceeded to engage in endless debates over Maoism, the validity of critiques of Stalinism, etc? What if they had argued that every difference on how to participate in a struggle mirrored positions taken at this or that time by the Mensheviks, Bolsheviks or the Social Revolutionaries?
What would have happened in Nicaragua? One thing is certain: such an approach by the FSLN would have facilitated Somoza’s efforts to isolate it. The FSLN organized Nicaragua’s natural vanguard. Fortunately, the FSLN acted in a Leninist fashion, without self-righteous fanfare and pompous self-justifications.
The programmatic and ideological misconceptions of our U.S. “vanguards”, which separate them from the material reality of living struggles, regardless of verbal or written claims to the contrary, guarantee their isolation. If the FSLN had fallen into the U.S. methodology, they would never have secured the commitment and dedication of their people to a determined, exceedingly difficult struggle for liberation.
The concrete tasks of the FSLN, which developed as a process, were and obviously are, different from those facing a vanguard formation in the United States, or in South Africa, or Sweden — but the method needed is similar.
What is applicable in one situation may be somewhat different in another. Issues that are secondary today and should not be dividing lines can become decisive tomorrow. And issues that may seem and, in fact be, decisive today can become secondary tomorrow. Program and points of demarcation evolve. Those who fail to appreciate such essentials will never build revolutionary movements, only highly intellectualized sects.
While each epoch and country may have sharply different needs, the method of building a revolutionary vanguard directly out of the living struggles, and of developing a program and organization as a process, are criteria that every revolutionary victory has shown to be a necessity.

Central America: the acid test

No example could be clearer than the developing revolutionary struggles in Central America. The peoples of this region have entered into a mass anti-imperialist struggle, opening up the possibility for a resolution of many years of oppression through the triumph of armed mass insurrectionary movements. The United States is the direct imperialist power involved. The future, not only of Central America but of our own movement, will be affected as a whole spectrum of international forces comes into play.
Those of us in the United States who consider ourselves sisters and brothers of all revolutionaries fighting for social justice must not fail to recognize both the duty to defend Central America and build opposition to U.S. aggression, and the opportunity to increase political consciousness in the United States. History is written by millions, and history is being written today in Central America, a history which is our own.
Where are our “vanguards”? Who has stepped forward to defend these living social revolutions? Who has put the struggle of the Central American peoples above all factional or sectarian considerations? Who has sought to develop and build a unified movement based on living reality, taking advantage of every possibility to mobilize US forces in defense of Central America, and to neutralise or divide forces in the enemy camp?
Where are our “vanguards”? One is busy raiding a committee here and a committee there in an attempt to “get control”, maybe to recruit two new members. Another is pontificating about alleged errors of those who are actually doing something, such as setting up literature tables to inform the average person about the facts, or collecting funds for medical aid.
Another sect is selling its paper at every movement activity, all the while declaring the solidarity movement meaningless. Two sects even called ballot initiatives advocating non-intervention in Central America “obstacles” to a supposedly “truly” revolutionary approach. And to help facilitate the confusionist and obscurantist work of the bourgeois media, one of the more extreme sects will be sure to bring red flags bearing hammers and sickles to each demonstration.
One group will refuse to participate in the solidarity movement while declaring its unending support for the FMLN, while another comes to meetings to criticize the FMLN’s alleged “imminent sell-out”. The criticisms of these “vanguards”, of course, are self-described as being the most important “aid” of all.
Of course, organizations that have fallen into sectarian methodologies can, at times, in spite of errors, take a correct position on one or another question, or engage in useful propaganda work, and even occasionally make a positive contribution in the class struggle. But like a stopped watch that is right twice a day, they are useless as a guide to either our next step or our long-range perspectives, despite their undeniable good intentions. In addition, we must acknowledge that many individuals and groups may evolve in a healthy direction. The history of movements such as those in Nicaragua and El Salvador indicate that even groups that for a long time made all kinds of errors have changed, adapted, evolved.
But in this overall context, is it any surprise that, in city after city, those forces that are working on a day-to day basis to concretely defend Central America see the “vanguards” more often as obstacles than allies? What we are witnessing through the experience of Central America at this time is the bankruptcy of the U.S. sectarians.
As opposed to the sectarians, a new, younger generation has stepped forward to place as its central concern advancing the real struggle against U.S. aggression in the region. These activists have generated mutual respect and communication with the generations of Central American revolutionaries leading their people to self-determination. Without long theses and documents, a new generation of U.S. solidarity activists is doing more effective work than the self-declared “Marxist-Leninist vanguards”. These younger forces, learning from the living struggle in Central America, are creating one part of a future framework from which a genuine U.S. revolutionary vanguard can expand.

Mark-up and proofreading by Steve Painter.
{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }
 Carl Davidson March 28, 2013 at 8:00 am
[This is a brief comment i wrote five years back that seems relevant here]
On Natural Vanguards
A Comment on David Graeber’s “Twilight of Vanguardism”
January, 2007
By Carl Davidson
I think those opposed to “vanguardism,” or even those in favor of it, often have their own definitions of the term that are too narrow.
For instance, at any given time, I find it useful to try to figure out the proportions of advanced, middle and backward among the general population in regards to politics. The backward are those who like and defend the existing order of oppression, the middle don’t want to be bothered with politics all that much because it doesn’t make sense in their daily lives and they are focused on themselves and family, and the advanced are those who see the present order as unfair, unjust and/or oppressive and would like to do something to change it.
This “sectoring” is fluid; any given individual can move from one to another from time to time as conditions vary. But at any given time, the advanced are usually a minority, although they may be a relatively large minority.
Within the advanced, moreover, there are those who are presently active and those who are waiting to do something, those who are in organizations, mass or otherwise, and those who haven’t joined anything yet, and those who think just a few major reforms will do and those who think the whole system has to go.
This narrows things down a bit. If you look at the advanced who are active, in an organization and who think the whole order needs to be replaced, you have what I would call the revolutionary vanguard. Notice that I didn’t say they had to be in ONE organization, or have ONE program, or leader. At some point they might, although it’s unlikely and certainly doesn’t happen by declaration or fiat or self-assertion. In any case, this grouping is what I would call the “natural vanguard” that shrinks or swells with the ebb and flow of class struggle and social crisis.
Now there are many organizations in the “natural vanguard.” Some better, some worse. Some on an open road; some stuck in a cul-de-sac.
Does any one or any one cluster of them ever get to be “the vanguard party?”
Only if certain conditions are met, including one very practical but often ignored factor: your group gets to be a LEADER if it has FOLLOWERS.
This seems clear as day to me, but we still have dozens of groups running around claiming to be the leader, but they don’t have any followers or supporters to speak of. They have the mistaken notion that a ‘correct line’ or ‘scientific program’ is sufficient, even granting that there is such a thing. Myself, I’ve come to the conclusion that I much prefer to work in groups that deal in ‘fruitful working hypotheses’ rather than ‘correct lines.’
I would say that to be the vanguard party, or the vanguard anything, a group or alliance of groups has to earn that designation by, first, winning over the vast majority of the advanced sector to choose it as their own organization; and second, by then in turn winning over large numbers of the middle forces to respect and follow its course of action, at least a good part of the time. Becoming a vanguard in this sense is something that is done practically and over time. The best examples I can think of were Vietnam and China. It simply means that masses of people recognize your group’s leadership ability that they will want to defend and protect you against the enemy, and finally, will want to join your ranks and shape the group’s politics and future themselves.
All the other disputes about the “genuine” vanguard status being achieved by assembling varying sets of principles or ideological coda is more in tune with medieval theological or Talmudic disputation, rather than the kind of fresh thinking we need today.
 Alan L. Maki March 28, 2013 at 11:23 am
There are a lot of generalities in this article.
In fact, it was the same “leaders” of the New Left who distorted and demonized the Communist Party USA which did a good job leading the mass movements from the 1920′s through the Reagan Administration beginning with the attacks on worker’s rights, advocacy of the New Deal reforms, the struggle to make the government responsible for full employment, the fight against McCarthyism, for civil rights, against the war in Vietnam.
It was because the CPUSA was so effective that the entire governmental apparatus joined the McCarthyite attacks which included so many fascist-like laws including that one law authored by Hubert H. Humphrey— the Communist Control Act— which served to prevent Communists from participating in many ways which led to the crippling of so many movements including the labor, peace and civil rights movements.
What I find so interesting is that all these New Left “leaders” who were absent from any struggles for decades, now made a comeback by supporting Barack Obama and a bunch of Wall Street Democrats who they proclaim to be “high road” capitalists when all they are is Wall Street imperialists dragging us into war after war paid for with austerity measures wrecking the social programs the Communist Party USA led the struggles for— thank a Communist for Social Security, the Minimum Wage, the right to organize.
I find it interesting there are these kinds of articles written around generalities but when it comes to specifics people would rather not engage in discussion.
Specifics like the many successes of the most successful working class based progressive people’s parties like the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party which brought together socialists, Communists and other liberals, progressives and leftists to elect two socialist governors and a Communist Congressman plus hundreds of other public officials from township boards to county commissions and school boards to a majority in the Minnesota State House and almost captured a majority in the Minnesota State Senate.
It is politically and intellectually dishonest to ignore successes simply one does not agree with someone or an organization or party.
Here is an earlier history of the CPUSA which readers of this article would do well to consider reading before jumping to conclusions:
Unfortunately, there is also this to read, too:
A lot of people don’t seem to want to engage in dialog when it comes to specifics. Anyone who thinks we need a revolutionary working class based Marxist-Leninist political party to guide our class and our people through these turbulent and treacherous waters will find such a party in the ideas, goals and objectives of the CPUSA prior to a self-serving opportunist leadership hijacking the national party apparatus beginning just before 2000 which continues today as is evidenced from the article above.
Also not discussed in the article under discussion is that in a country as large as the United States there is likely to be many differences of opinion simply because many people have so many different life experiences so it is logical there will be parties organized around similar life experiences by people who have narrower outlooks who don’t understand that it takes all those with different life experiences to find a way to work together if we are going to successfully challenge Wall Street for political and economic power and whether or not we can all agree to work in a revolutionary party like the CPUSA, we are all going to have to find a way to work together in some kind of progressive working class based people’s party similar to what existed with the socialist Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party or like what Canadian workers have with their socialist New Democratic Party.
I would still like to know from these “leaders” of the New Left who have turned to working for an imperialist warmonger like Obama what they found so adverse in the Communist Party USA— after all, they hoodwinked a generation into thinking the New Left was what was needed by demonizing the “Old Left” and now they have become the sell-outs and betrayers they falsely purported the Communists to be.
Perhaps Sam Webb and the present “leaders” would like to post their comments here, too, along with an explanation of how supporting an imperialist warmonger like Obama fits in with building a united working class movement for real change?
I do find it interesting that Carl Davidson who spared no effort as a “leader” of the New Left in criticizing the CPUSA, now has nothing but praise for these national CPUSA “leaders” who shed nothing but tears of joy ever Obama’s election and re-election and who have run out of tears for the victims of U.S. imperialism now finds his allies.
 Pham Binh March 28, 2013 at 2:49 pm
There are quite a few generalities in your comment.
Peter Camejo in particular played an outstanding role in the Bay Area anti-Viet Nam war movement as a member of the Socialist Workers Party. Look up the battle of Telegraph Avenue. What role did CP USA play locally in the movement at that time? And where in this text did Camejo “demonize” CP USA?
 Alan L. Maki March 28, 2013 at 4:24 pm
I never said Camejo “demonized” the CPUSA. My reference was to New Left “leaders” who did this… there are way too many to mention them all but among those who did this they include Tom Hayden, Carl Davidson… just look at the names on the “Progressives for Obama” website and you will see who many of them are.
I am not familiar with the specific battle of “Telegraph Avenue” that you mention.
I did not post here to attack anything Camejo wrote in this particular article other than it lacks specifics which makes something like this difficult to discuss.
As for “generalities” in my comment it seems to me there are many specifics.
 Pham Binh March 28, 2013 at 4:44 pm
Your comment was a blanket denunciation of “new left” leaders, of which Camejo was one. It was not unreasonable for me to assume that your comment was something of a response to what he wrote here. This piece actually does have specifics but they are dated because this was written some 30-odd years ago.
I suggest picking up a copy of Camejo’s autobiography, North Star if you are interested in the specifics of his role in the Bay Area anti-war movement. A Google search probably won’t yield anything with the kind of granular, inside detail the book provides.
 Alan L. Maki March 28, 2013 at 5:21 pm
We should learn from the past. Without specifics it is kind of difficult to learn from the past.
My point was not to take issue with anything Camejo wrote, said or did. Just to point out there are no real specifics. It would have been helpful for him to been more specific; nothing he can do about this now but we are still living and I thought you were inviting discussion around the issue not the person.
The issue you have raised is an important one. Personally, I don’t like the term “vanguard;” it seems to me the issue is more one where the left needs to be prepared for its role as initiator and catalyst in helping to guide struggles around specific problems in a way that will lead to achieving reforms while challenging Wall Street for political and economic power as a step towards socialism.
Perhaps I wasn’t clear; but my reason for commenting on this article was that I liked it’s formulations but thought if more specifics were included it would be helpful to expanding a discussion.
I was making a “blanket” attack on New Left “leaders.” Obviously I disagree that a New Left was, or is, needed because I feel the “old left” did a pretty good job. I have no idea to what extent Camejo attacked the “old left.” I really didn’t view this particular article as an attack on the “old left.” Am I mistaken?
 David Berger March 28, 2013 at 3:30 pm
ALAN MAKI: In fact, it was the same “leaders” of the New Left who distorted and demonized the Communist Party USA which did a good job leading the mass movements from the 1920′s through the Reagan Administration beginning with the attacks on worker’s rights, advocacy of the New Deal reforms, the struggle to make the government responsible for full employment, the fight against McCarthyism, for civil rights, against the war in Vietnam.
DAVID BERGER: “Welcome to Fantasy Politics.” In 1932, under the banner of the Popular Front, the CPUSA supported Franklin Roosevelt from President and, except for 1948, has more or less supported Democrats every since. It also supported the notorious “No Strike Pledge” during WWII. This is class collalboration in spades.
The CPUSA is a totally discredited group on the Left. The only reason anyone sniffs around this corpse is because they have fantasies about the Democrats. The CPUSA shed any revolutionary practice by the mid-1930s. Demonstrating the degenerate praxis of this group over the past nearly 80 years is about as difficult as shooting catfish in a barrel.
Just one point on Vietnam: the CPUSA played a very minor role in the anti-Vietnam movement because it espoused the slogan of “Negotiations Now” as opposed to calling for “Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal From Vietnam.” Again and again, Left groups like the SWP (and others) had to fight the CP in the anti-Vietnam movement.
 Carl Davidson March 28, 2013 at 4:33 pm
Discredited to whom, comrade Berger? Get real. Fortunately or unfortunately, the CPUSA isn’t much more or less influential than the rest of us. Contrary to the point above, I’ve many disagreements with them, and find myself (and my group, CCDS) a bit to their left these days. I think they tail Obama and downplay many socialist tasks of our movement. But if you think they are isolated and discredited because of defending Obama, you need to get in touch with the masses of Black voters, and progressive-minded white workers, too, for that matter.
The CP had a right line on the antiwar movement, but it was involved in that struggle up to its ears. Save for a few Schactmanites, we all were. As for slogans, I sat in a classroom in Cuba for 10 days while a North Vietnamese general explained to me, in some detail, why they felt, very urgently, we should push the demand, ‘Set the Date’ on the White House regarding the start of the peace talks. He said it was fine to continue with ‘Out Now,’ but urged us to take the timeliness of this additional slogan very seriously. I did, and brought it back to the Guardian, and we pushed for it in all the wider coalitions. The only ones to refuse to take it up were the SWPers.
I worked with both the PCPJ and NPAC coalitions, sitting on the steering committees of both, and they both had their strengths and weaknesses. I’d say the biggest problem we had was the ultraleftism that destroyed SDS the year before 5 million students went on strike after the Kent and Jackson State killings. You characterizations here are far too simplistic and self-serving.
 Alan L. Maki March 28, 2013 at 4:37 pm
First of all the CPUSA ran Foster for president in 1932.
The rest of your comments are just as “accurate” as the first. Such distortions and lies certainly do nothing towards bringing the left together.
I would agree with you that the SWP has wasted a lot of peoples’ time fighting the wrong battles when it should have seen Wall Street as our common enemy.
 David Berger March 29, 2013 at 10:25 am
Sorry, I meant 1936 when the CP endorsed Roosevelt.
As William Z, Foster puts it:
The position of the Communist Party in the 1936 elections, in line with its general attitude toward the New Deal, was one of objective, but not official support for Roosevelt. At its ninth convention (in New York, June 24-28, 1936), the Party took the stand that the central issue of the campaign was “democracy versus fascism,” and it pointed out that the major forces of reaction and fascism were ganged up behind Landon. It called for “the concentration of all forces of the working class and its allies in the fight against the Republican-Liberty League-Hearst combination and for the defeat of its plans in the elections of 1936.” The Party directed its main fire against Landon. As for Roosevelt, while the Party realized that he had made certain concessions to the toilers, it correctly asserted that he had made bigger “concessions to Hearst, to Wall Street, to the reactionaries.” 7 It declared that Roosevelt’s “middle course” was “not a barrier to reaction and fascism,” 8 and that the Party could not therefore give him a full endorsement. Consequently, the Party put up its own national ticket, Earl Browder and James W. Ford. It was on the ballot in 34 states. The type of campaign which the Party carried on, however, calling for the defeat of Landon at all costs, militated against the Party polling its own full potential vote in the elections—hence its ticket received only 80,181 votes.
Anyone who wants an alliance with the CPUSA is welcome to it. They’re my neighbors in Chelsea, in NYC, but I don’t plan to visit them any time soon. Frankly, I wouldn’t piss in the same pot with their leadership.
 Alan L. Maki March 29, 2013 at 12:21 pm
At least we share the same contempt for the present “leadership” of the CPUSA which has hi-jacked the assets of the CPUSA and is supporting Obama’s and the Democrat’s Wall Street imperialist agenda. Obviously these current “leaders” are even liberals let alone Communists or Marxists of any variety or variant. I previously posted (above) their statement to the international Communist gathering held recently in Lebanon.
I also appreciate you posting the words straight from Foster instead of your previous distorted comment.
I think most people on the left agreed with the position of the CPUSA in the 1936 elections.
I would point out that much of the left, including the CPUSA took the position that Roosevelt’s reforms did not go far enough— too little, too late— and plans were being made to take the Farmer-Labor Party national with the intent to run Minnesota’s socialist governor against Roosevelt but a lot of problems prevented this including Governor Floyd Olson’s untimely death.
I would also note that Norman Thomas and his Socialist Party refused to join the efforts of the “People’s Front” and threw their lot in with the America Firsters— a mistake some of the left is making again with Ron and Rand Paul; this erroneous thinking there can be some kind of left-right alliance.
Of course, Earl Browder went on to make equally serious mistakes after WWII and now we have this weird situation with the present CPUSA leadership.
 Brian S. March 29, 2013 at 1:07 pm
@ David berger. Spot on: in the Canadian antiwar movement I worked in a bloc with the Quakers against the CP’s attempts to limit the movement to calling for negotiations rather than withdrawal.
Alan Maki needs to study more critical history of the CPUSA: its true that their militants at the local level did some fine grassroots organising at times, and they made an important contribution to the building of the industrial unions. But at the national level (and it couldn’t help but filter down to the rank and file) they alternated between ultraleftism and class collaboration. In three periods – the “third period” 1928-c.34, the years of the Hitler-Stalin pact, 1939-41; and the war years, 1942-5 – they played a sectarian and destructive role in the labour movement (both ultraleft and class-collaborationist at different points in time). If you draw up a balance sheet of this, it would look like a pretty negative one overall to me.
 Richard Estes March 28, 2013 at 12:38 pm
good to see you here Alan
I still appreciate your efforts to dispel the absurdities of the late Southern Dragon in regard to his characterization of Marx as someone who, after 1850, abandoned revolutionary politics, limiting himself “understanding how the capitalist system works”
lacking roots in the history at issue here, I will limit my response to a brief response: first, social life in the US has been transformed to such a degree since the heydey of the CPUSA that it is implausible to imagine an organization being effective today with its practices, and, second, Camejo was trying to engage this problem as this transformation was taking place in the 1980s
I say this as someone outside of the leftists for Obama circle
 Alan L. Maki March 28, 2013 at 3:56 pm
Richard, I appreciate the intent of Camejo’s remarks but it is very difficult to have a conversation and discussion without specifics being cited; although he did get into solidarity work with some specifics and I agree with what he wrote.
I didn’t post my remarks to say, “Hey, I’m right and everyone else is wrong.” I was hoping to generate some discussion around specific issues.
What do you mean by, “…social life in the US has been transformed to such a degree since the heydey of the CPUSA that it is implausible to imagine an organization being effective today with its practices…”
Of course “social life” is much different today than in the 1930′s but, if anything, the class struggle has intensified and Wall Street has strengthened its power and grip many fold over what existed in the 1930′s.
In fact, as the CPUSA began to grow in the 1970′s and early 1980′s the FBI instigated another wave of repression as the New Left left the scene after demonizing the CPUSA.
Now thirty years later we get the New Left “leaders” coming back having created outfits like “Progressives for Obama,” “Progressive Democrats of America” and a whole slew of foundation-funded outfits serving as Democratic Party front groups— I will ask the question straight out: Does anyone think any of these outfits supporting Obama are going to be vehicles capable of winning even the most minute reforms let alone lead any kind of movements challenging Wall Street for political and economic power?
The “change” you refer to that began taking place in the 1980′s was the buy-off of the 1960′s New Left “leaders” AND many activists as corporate America began to bring them into the fold— and under their control; under the control of the “philanthropists” by hiring them to staff their foundation-funded outfits as a way to keep them in line and under their thumbs. These super militant New Left “leaders” were in effect marginalized and “neutralized;” in effect, they sold out— just what they unfairly and unjustifiably accused Communists of doing.
What are the “practices” of the Communist Party which you don’t find plausible in today’s world? It looks to me like Communists who have held strong to their revolutionary working class Marxist-Leninist thinking are doing pretty well in leading the struggles in Greece, Spain, Italy, France, Philippines, South Korea, Venezuela, South Africa, Canada, Mexico, Cuba, Finland, Denmark, Holland, Belgium and a few dozen other countries.
And where Communist Party Clubs here in the United States have separated themselves from the national “leadership” which has taken up with Obama and betrayed the working class and anti-imperialist movements, we see a great deal of activity and involvement in many movements.
I would also point out that a lot of the problems which prevented maximum participation by Communists were created inside the Communist Party by FBI informants and agents whose job it was to disrupt the activities of the CPUSA. My own FBI file contains hundreds of such examples of this with the names of the informants and agents blacked out.
Certainly there has never been any organization in the United States targeted for such severe governmental repression as the CPUSA— after all, the FBI’s COINTELPRO program was created for just this purpose and then it was expanded to target numerous other liberal, progressive and left groups and entire movements.
You really need to provide some specifics to your assertion that the CPUSA engaged in practices which wouldn’t be plausible today— perhaps you are correct but without the specifics being cited we don’t know and have no way of knowing.
I would point this out while we are on this topic. A lot of leftists refer to the Communist Manifesto and encourage its study and dissemination among activists and working people. I think this is good; the more people get access to ideas coming “straight from the horse’s mouth” so to speak the better.
But, why do so many of those who promote the reading and study of the “Communist Manifesto” fail to point out that it is actually “The Manifesto of the Communist Party.”
Without a Communist Party working class movements likely will not go far nor have the persistence and stamina to see these struggles through to successful victories in the struggles for reforms, the struggle to bring down Wall Street and the struggle for socialism.
The CPUSA had a pretty good Program all through the middle to latter part of the 20th Century— most of which is still pretty much relevant today.
We need to discuss all of this as friends if we are intent on working together on solving the many problems confronting working people and it simply is not conducive to unity to toss out these kinds of things without being specific.
The CPUSA is now at its all time low in terms of organization and influence.
Now is the time for working class activists to decide:
Do we rebuild the CPUSA?
Do we build another revolutionary working class organization/party in its place?
Marxism, providing the best and most consistent critique of capitalism, after having been proclaimed irrelevant and dead so many times, continues to be seen by Wall Street as its number one enemy as Time Magazine recently ran this article which seems to have caught so many people by surprise:
The question remains: How do we make sure Wall Street’s very worst nightmare materializes if we don’t have a very strong revolutionary Marxist-Leninist working class organization/party?
 Richard Estes March 28, 2013 at 5:23 pm
the problem is, there is no “Marxist-Leninist working class” in the US today, at least not one that perceives itself as such
things have changed a lot since the heydey of the CPUSA, and any left formation seeking to challenge capital is going to have to take those changes into account
the left should, as a starting point, begin with what workers actually do now, and how they relate to themselves, their communities, their work and the economy as a means of developing an effective working class organization, instead of starting with the concept of a Marxist-Leninist organization and trying to fit them into it
 PatrickSMcNally March 28, 2013 at 8:22 pm
To be fair to ALM (who I generally disagree with), he did not refer to a “Marxist-Leninist working class.” He referred to a “Marxist-Leninist working class organization/party.” That means, an organization or party that is embedded in the working class and is guided theoretically by Marxism-Leninism. No one would ever argue that there ever has at any time existed such a thing as a “Marxist-Leninist working class.” If there were, then the very concept of a party would be made redundant.
 Alan L. Maki March 29, 2013 at 11:24 am
There are four or five specific points the left, no matter what orientation and perspective, organizations have that we should be able to unite a very significant majority of the American people around if we all agreed we need to work together to become a catalyst for change instead of trying to compete with one another:
1. Peace— end the wars, the occupations, close the military bases and stop this insane military spending so we reap a real “peace dividend.”
2. Full employment; we need to push for legislation that would require the president and Congress to be responsible for attaining and maintaining full employment at real living wages based on all cost of living factors.
3. A National Public Health Care System which would create twelve-million new jobs providing the American people with free health care through regional, county, city and neighborhood health care centers and hospitals— no fee/no-premium, comprehensive (pre-natal through burial), all-inclusive (including general and specialized, eyes, ears, dental, mental), universal (everyone in, nobody out), publicly financed, publicly administered and publicly delivered.
4. A National Public Child Care System which would create some three-million new jobs providing free child care to all.
5. Action on climate change.
We would have to convince people that we would take a similar progressive approach towards solving all problems and we would encourage people to keep working to bring about reforms that are solutions to their pressing problems while agreeing to come together around this very basic five point program which would improve the lives for everyone in this country and peace would not only enable us to solve our problems but create the conditions for people all over the world to improve their lives.
A more comprehensive program for change we should consider working towards would look like this:
I really don’t know why or how anyone could disagree with any of this; I would be interested in hearing the reasons for disagreement.
Anyone can go into the homes of working people and sit around the kitchen table chatting with people to find this is what people are looking for us to come together around.
As for these phony liberals, progressives and leftists still supporting Obama; all they are doing is strengthening the hand of the very Wall Street imperialists who we will have to challenge for power to win these basic reforms required to begin moving our country in a new— progressive— direction.
Ask yourselves, ask any working person this question:
How is Barack Obama’s Wall Street war economy working for you?
Most people will tell you Obama’s war economy is not working for them.
There isn’t one single left wing organization or party capable of bringing this kind of basic progressive program to the American people for consideration and action— together we can accomplish doing both.
Why continue squabbling over generalities when people have specific real problems requiring specific solutions with peace being the center of everything.
Obama’s wars are killing our jobs just like they are killing people and the Democrats will never talk about putting people to work solving the most pressing problems of the people because Wall Street can’t profit from such universal public programs.
This is the socialist way to solve the problems of working people; the best the Keynesians can offer is using public funds putting a few people to work hoping to stimulate the capitalist consumer economy in a way where wealth is transferred to a few Wall Street parasites. I do find it interesting the New Left supporters of Obama have become infatuated with the Keynesian economics of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus— both of which sucked liberals, progressives and leftists into thinking their reactionary Keynesian programs are progressive when nothing could be further from the truth but they get away with this because the left hasn’t placed a truly progressive program before the American people so a real national discussion and debate can take place.
 Carl Davidson March 29, 2013 at 12:27 pm
Maki is disingenuous about the ‘Back to Work Budget’ of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. I suggest he and others study it in some detail. If he wants to call it reactionary, what would he then call the budgets of the Senate Democrats or Ryan’s Tea Party?
The Congressional Progressive Caucus stressed job creation and Pentagon cuts. More important, it includes the financial transaction tax, an important structural reform.
It serves well as the economic platform for a popular front vs finance capital, which is what we need at the moment.
With his ultraleft attack on the Black Caucus and others, attacking real friends to make real enemies, I don’t think Maki’s proposals will even get beyond the realm of ‘good ideas.’
If you’re looking to find a politics that combines ultraleftism with Browder, something not very common, Maki’ s ideas are your starting point.
 Alan L. Maki March 29, 2013 at 3:49 pm
As you have acknowledged on numerous occasions, Davidson, you support Keynesian economics so I’m not surprised you are supporting the “too little, too late” budgets of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus both of which focus on subsidizing small business to create the jobs. Interesting you pooh-pooh the five points I mentioned while indulging in your typical CPUSA bashing though you just love the Webb grouping.
No one believes the CPC or CBC is going to even advance their pitiful “too little, too late” agendas— it’s all show.
But, I would encourage anyone who wants to join you in wasting time advancing reactionary Keynesian proposals to go ahead and do so— unlike you, most will learn from such experiences that it is just a waste of time.
Davidson, you have traversed quite the political spectrum— from supporting a confused Mao to the butcher Pol Pot to Wall Street’s imperialist warmonger Barack Obama to pragmatism of John Dewey and now an adherent of Keynesianism— from Mao’s failed thinking to holding up the tails of Dumb Donkeys asking for permission to pick up what the sparrows leave behind as you describe your politics being “to the left of Sam Webb.” Who is going to be following you? Next thing you will be telling us your support for Obama merits approval because Obama is to the left of Bush, McCain and Romney and works for the good fellows who have followed the “lefty” Bill Gates down the benevolent capitalist “high road” path.
And what about your friends in the Blue-Green Alliance and the KXL Pipeline like Leo “as long as its American made pipe” Gerard… real good allies you choose.
 Carl Davidson March 29, 2013 at 4:05 pm
Maki, I am a Marxist, not a Keynesian. Unfortunately our Congress is not divided between Marxists and Keynesians. It would be nice if it were.
Instead, it’s divided between Austrian school Ayn Randers (Rand Paul and crew), neoliberals, neo-Keynesians. and a few straight-up Keynesians and social democrats in the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus and its budget got about 80 votes out of 435. So yes, they are not going to see it passed anytime soon. It does, however, serve as a progressive pole to expose the others. But your budget has zero votes in Congress, and not likely to get more any time soon either. So I’d be careful, if I were you, about dismissing people as not having enough clout.
When you form a poplar front, it’s a multi-class alliance, and I would expect various trends to put out their views, including Marxists (like Rick Wolff and David Harvey) and Keynesians (like Krugman and Reich, who are out in the cold too these days). If you insist that the popular front can only have a Marxist economic program, it’s not likely to be much of a common front, is it?
As for your red-baiting jibes, I’ll just let them go as amusing. People can make what they want of them–and you as well.
 Alan L. Maki March 29, 2013 at 5:27 pm
Since the five points I have proposed can’t fair any worse with the present Congress, I don’t see any advantage in promoting Keynesian budgets as advanced by the CPC or CBC.
In fact, if these politicians are going to respond at all to public pressure it is more likely greater public pressure can be generated in support of the five points.
We are talking about creating the maximum public pressure through movement building required to win needed reforms, are we not?
Last I heard only about 100,000 letters were generated by over 300 organizations in support of the CPC budget… I hardly call that a “mass movement” with any kind of clout… especially when you Progressive Democrats of America, alone, boasts of being 25,000 “strong.”
You CPC budget, Davidson, can boast of having 80 votes in Congress… the CBC budget even fewer— worse yet, from a movement building perspective, neither of these budgets have mass support simply because they rely on the private sector creating these jobs; and they rely on small business, to boot. Even more laughable, Barack Obama, who you supported, will only advance a budget requiring cuts to human needs while creating 70,000 jobs with an increase in military spending unless you think these huge military buildups in the Middle East and the Pacific Region are paid for by someone other than the U.S. tax-payers.
Just what s there with the five points I brought forward you don’t think the majority of the American people will support; isn’t this the real issue when it comes to movement building?
And let us have your thinking about your espousing the need to continue supporting Democrats.
Furthermore, I never so much as insinuated these five points were a Marxist budget or program— they are in fact, a budget liberals, progressives and leftists could mobilize the American people behind as we build mass movements in the streets with a corresponding working class based people’s progressive party which would help us free ourselves from Wall Street’s two-party trap.
I don’t think you have learned from history very well, Davidson; because if you had learned anything at all, you would know that when movement building began around the New Deal reforms not even 50 members of Congress could be found supporting any of these reforms… and, look at Affirmative Action— Lyndon Johnson couldn’t find twenty votes for it in Congress yet a massive people’s movement— including rioting in the streets— forced Johnson to issue Federal Executive Order #11246.
And how many votes were there in the United States Senate in opposition to the Gulf of Tonkin resolution? Should the fact that there was next to no opposition to the Vietnam War have stopped us from opening up a movement against this dirty war?
Who the hell should be setting the priorities for our movements… a bunch of cowardly Wall Street bribed politicians or people who are fed up and have had enough of Wall Street’s wars, corruption and austerity measures?
You seem to be under the impression that we need the support from a bunch of worthless and cowardly politicians in order to build movements capable of winning real change when nothing could be further from the truth.
Even the article in Time Magazine, “Marx’s Revenge: How Class Struggle Is Shaping the World fostered the idea that whether or not there will be change hinges on the class struggle.
You obviously assess Krugman and Reich incorrectly, too, since you believe they are “out in the cold” when the one and only purpose either of them serve is to keep people like yourself hoodwinked into believing coalition partners can be found for progressive change under the Democrat’s big tent. As you know, it is damn near impossible to convince people to remain inside this tent once they get a whiff of the Donkey dung… especially after having had their noses rubbed in it.
 Carl Davidson March 29, 2013 at 6:12 pm
Maki, even federally-funded jobs where people get out and build things or provide services are often delegated to local private contractors and small business startups. Bottom line, there is no secure way to grow jobs without growing businesses as well. Our task is to make sure funds are allocated fairly, wages are at union scale and the work is ecologically sound. If we can start worker-owned or publicly-owned firms, so much the better.
As for Krugman and Reich, no one at the top is taking their counsel these day. Krugman was on ‘Morning Joe’ a few weeks ago, and everyone practically had puppies denouncing him for the next two weeks. Thank goodness for Bill Moyers for putting on Rick Wolff.
 Carl Davidson March 29, 2013 at 6:13 pm
Maki, even federally-funded jobs where people get out and build things or provide services are often delegated to local private contractors and small business startups. Bottom line, there is no secure way to grow jobs without growing businesses as well. Our task is to make sure funds are allocated fairly, wages are at union scale and the work is ecologically sound. If we can start worker-owned or publicly-owned firms, so much the better.
As for Krugman and Reich, no one at the top is taking their counsel these days. Krugman was on ‘Morning Joe’ a few weeks ago, and everyone practically had puppies denouncing him for the next two weeks. Thank goodness for Bill Moyers for putting on Rick Wolff.
 Alan L. Maki March 29, 2013 at 8:54 pm
Well, Davidson; as one of Barack Obama’s primary “Marxist” supporters, I have yet to hear you and your Obama loving “Progressives for Obama” try to mobilize people for the enforcement of Affirmative Action (EO #11246) as something like three-trillion dollars of public funds have been spent in the name of “economic stimulation.” Here, in the President you support and the Congressional Progressive Caucus which you support and your allies in the Congressional Black Caucus which you support— not one single one of you have insisted on the enforcement of Federal Executive Order #11246. Yet, here you are hypocritically talking about, “Our task is to make sure funds are allocated fairly, wages are at union scale and the work is ecologically sound.” I would invite you to come to Minnesota to see for yourself how “fairly” these funds have been “allocated” and to see that few of those who have been employed have been employed “at union scale;” you might want to check out the peat mining in the Big Bog for how “ecologically sound” these projects have been. And what about the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant which these funds helped to shut down and subsidize the sale of a tax-payer financed hydro dam to Brookfield— a foreign multi-national who is a major contributor to Obama and the Democrats.
Davidson; you make the claim: “Bottom line, there is no secure way to grow jobs without growing businesses as well.” Plain and outright Keynesian thinking since the best way to grow jobs that offer workers job security is through developing the public sector— there is nothing the public sector can’t do better than the private sector… ever notice the letters “W.P.A.” and “C.C.C.” etched in to the bridges, sewer systems, state and federal park buildings, roads and bridges?
And Robert Reich offered up the sage advice to those considering an alternative political party: right and left come together— a sure loser.
You were the poster boy for Pol Pot; your buddy Tom Hayden was the poster boy for the Israeli killing machine for over twenty years and now both of you are pushing for a new “New Left.”
No thanks… or should we say, “no tanks!”
 Alan L. Maki March 29, 2013 at 8:58 pm
And, Davidson; you talk about “public ownership” yet you and your organizations refused to advocate for public ownership as the way to save the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant, the hydro dam part of the operation and two-thousand good-paying union jobs that took the better part of 80 years to get fully integrated to the point where there was full equality in the workplace (or as close as we can get to full equality under this rotten corrupt racist system).
Leave a Comment