38. The Party of the Working Class and the Nation
|Foster in Moscow, 1961|
THE COMMUNIST PARTY AS WORKING CLASS LEADER
As the vanguard of the proletariat, the Communist Party has played a leading role in the building and functioning of the trade union movement, ever since it became an active factor in the American class struggle. Every struggle of the workers for higher wages, shorter hours, or improved working conditions has found the Communists in the front battle line. The employers and the government understand this fact very well and they have made innumerable Communist pickets and strike leaders pay dearly in jail terms, injuries, and death for their militancy. None are more effective strikers than the Communists.
In the organization of the unorganized, which was for many years the greatest immediate problem of the workers in this country, the Communists, more than any other group, were pioneer leaders and tireless workers. They fought for industrial unionism and against the treacheries and stupidities of craft unionism; they introduced new strike strategy and tactics into the workers' struggles, as against the asinine methods used by the old-line conservative trade union leaders. The Party, therefore, can well claim a large share of the credit for the building of the C.I-O. and the organization of the basic industries.
To develop working class independent political action, to liberate the workers from the employers' political domination through their two-party system, and to build an alliance between them and their natural political allies, has always been a central endeavor of the Communists. Neither a labor party, nor a farmer-labor party, nor a democratic coalition has yet been realized in strength, but this will take place in due time. The Party has always fought also for working class leadership in the political movements of the masses.
The Communists also have always been indefatigable workers for trade union unity. They were militant opponents of left dual unionism when this was a real problem; they have fought against the C.I.O.-A.F. of L. split, and they have ever since striven to achieve united action and organic unity between these two national centers. In the international sphere, the Communists have been no less ardent supporters of unity and opponents of Gompersite American trade union isolationism and disruption. They have ever sought to link up the labor movement of the United States with that of other countries. In late years this has meant active backing of such organizations as the Latin American Confederation of Labor and the World Federation of Trade Unions.
Trade union democracy is another issue which has always had strong Communist support. The Communists have steadily fought against excessive initiation fees, against overpaid officials, and especially against gangster and dictatorial reactionary control of the unions. They struggled courageously during the 1920's against the entrenched Gompers and Social-Democratic thugs, and later on they were largely responsible for the democracy that prevailed in the C.I.O. during its early years. The left and progressive unions, now independent, possess the highest types of trade union democracy ever achieved by the American working class.
The Communists also led in the workers' fight for social security in all its forms. Their fight for unemployment insurance during the great economic crisis was one of the classic struggles of American labor history. The workers' growing struggle for old age pensions and other forms of state insurance, which is a sure sign of their diminishing faith in the ability of the capitalist system to furnish them a decent living, has the most active Communist backing.
The Communists have especially championed a fighting policy for the working class. They have always been inveterate enemies of the poisonous class collaboration (working class surrender) policies of the Gompers-Green-Murray-Reuther-Dubinsky leadership, whether this was aimed at speeding up the workers, as in the 1920's, or dragging them into fascism and war in the 1950's. The Communists have fought continuously for a strong, unified trade union movement and a labor party, both operating with a fighting policy. They have also sought tirelessly to imbue the workers with a Socialist perspective. In battling for these objectives, the Communists have faced many persecutions, both inside and outside the trade unions. They have pioneered every forward movement to strengthen the working class, without counting the cost to them-selves. In all these activities the Party has played a truly vanguard role.
THE COMMUNIST PARTY AND THE NEGRO PEOPLE
In the pre-Civil War days the Marxists, led by Marx and Engels themselves, laid great stress upon the Negro question. During the period of the predominance in the left of the opportunist-led S.L.P. and S.P., from 1876 to 1919, this issue was greatly neglected. With the foundation of the Communist Party and under the influence of the teachings of Lenin and Stalin on the national question, the Negro question was restressed and raised to the highest significance. The C.P. has always considered the defense of the most abused and exploited section of the American people to be a very vital matter. Consequently, for a generation past, the Party has devoted its most determined efforts to strengthening the fight of the Negro people for jobs, union membership, union leadership, and union protection, and against lynching and the whole monstrous system of Jim Crow.
Not the least of the Party's work in this general respect has been its fight to abolish the rank discrimination against Negroes in sports, the theater, and literature. The Communist Party has unquestionably been a powerful factor in the political advance made by the Negro people during the past thirty years. It is especially proud of its work in this field.
The Communist Party has contributed a number of new and vital features to the struggle of the Negro people: (a) It has elevated this question to its proper high political status, in the realization that the oppressed Negro people are the greatest of all allies of the workers in the class struggle; (b) It has expressed boundless confidence in the feasibility of mass Negro-white co-operation, finding many forms and issues for bringing this about; (c) It has raised the theoretical level of the Negro question to that of a national question, thereby providing the Negro people with their true perspective as an oppressed nation; (d) It has singled out the insidious danger of white chauvinism in the broad working class and in its own ranks and has fought against it as no other organization has even begun to do; (e) It has considered the Negro question as a key question by which to measure the class integrity and understanding of every individual and organization in the broad labor movement.
The Communist Party, by the same token, is a tireless enemy of every form of anti-Semitism. It was only with the rise of world communism that the struggles against white chauvinism, anti-Semitism, and similar forms of national and racial discrimination became powerful political factors. International Social-Democracy, in its heyday, never even raised these vital issues.
THE COMMUNIST PARTY AND OTHER DEMOCRATIC STRATA
The Communist Party, as the Party of all the oppressed and exploited, has always devoted major attention to the struggle of the women against the load of restrictions and prejudices from which they suffer under capitalism. As we have seen during the course of this history of the Party, the Communists have supported every attack—economic, political, and social—upon the vast network of discrimination against women. One of the very greatest achievements of socialism, as the Soviet Union and the People's Democracies are daily demonstrating, is the creation of a new regime of freedom and opportunity for women. The Communist Party has always had a keen appreciation of the question. During its long struggle over this issue, the Communist Party has built up what is by far the finest corps of women political leaders possessed by any organization in the United States.
Communism, representing the society of the future, naturally makes a powerful appeal to the youth. The C.P.U.S.A., in the spirit of all Communist parties, therefore, has always made the question of the youth a central object of its attention. The Communist level of political activity in behalf of this huge category of the population is immeasurably above that of any other political party, trade union, or youth organization. The greatest achievements of the Communists in this field were made during the big youth movement of the 1930's, the period of the American Youth Congress. It is not claiming too much to state that the Young Communist League was the principal political leader in this historic struggle of the young people, the most significant of its kind that the United States has ever known.
The Communist Party has also paid major attention to the needs of the millions of foreign-born in our country. Reaction, with its never-ending plots to split the working class, is quick to direct its attack against those workers who have not been born in the United States. The harsh weapon of deportation, a splitter of families, has been used ruthlessly against them. The trade unions and the Socialist Party have grossly neglected the rights of the foreign-born, but the Communist Party has ever had this question in the center of its program.
The farmers are a vital segment of American political life and upon many occasions and over many years the poorer sections of them in the various mass organizations—the Grange, Greenback, Populist, Non-Parti-san League, and Farmer-Labor Party movements—have shown that they are powerful and dependable allies of the proletariat. Lenin, above all others, demonstrated the enormous political significance of the worker-farmer alliance. But the American Communist Party, while appreciating the great political importance of the farmers as working class allies, nevertheless has not succeeded in establishing a strong base among them. This is one of the gravest weaknesses of the Party. During the 1920's, as we have seen in the chapters covering that period, the Communists were very active, and effectively so, among the farmer movements of the Middle and Far West. But of recent years, as the sparse consideration of the agrarian question in the later pages of this book shows, Communist work in this major field has been negligible, save to a certain extent among the Negro sharecroppers in the South.
THE COMMUNIST PARTY, THE PARTY OF THE NATION
The Communist Party is the party of the working class. This it has demonstrated beyond question throughout its entire history. The Party has always been in the vanguard, fighting along with other progressive forces for every measure in the economic, political, and social interests of the workers. The time was, before World War I, when the Socialist Party, despite all the wrong policies of its opportunist leaders, could claim to be the party of the proletariat, but that time has long since passed. The S.P. both here and abroad, as this history makes clear, has identified itself with the interests of capitalism and is going down with that doomed system. The S.L.P. and the Trotskyites, following basically the same opportunist line, are scheduled for the same fate. All over the world, including the United States, the Communist Party is the basic political organization of the toiling masses.
The Communist Party is not only the Party of the working class, but also the party representing the true interests of the nation. By fighting loyally and intelligently, as it has always done, for the interests of the workers, the Negro people, women, youth, farmers, veterans, and foreign-born, the Communist Party is in actuality defending the best interests of the American people in general—minus, of course, the 10 percent or so of capitalist parasites and their hangers-on. The Socialist Party, like its Trotskyite and S.L.P. auxiliaries, has no right to speak authoritatively in the interest of the American people as a whole because of its subservience to the exploitation and war plans of Wall Street.
In addition to defending the specific interests of the workers and other broad democratic strata who make up the vast bulk of the American nation, the Communist Party always supports vigorously every general measure and cause directly beneficial to the great mass of the people of this country. The Communist Party is to be found on the progressive side of every political struggle. Thus, in the domestic sphere, the Party supports now, and always has supported, every piece of state or federal legislation of a progressive character. It militantly defends the Bill of Rights and American democratic traditions; it is the most resolute enemy of the present fascist-like attacks upon the people's democratic liberties; it opposes the current military domination of the government, the industries, and the schools; it proposes a people's peace coalition against the Wall Street warmongers; it fights against inflation and every attempt of the government, the employers, and their labor leader allies to throw the burden of the war preparations upon the workers and lower middle class; it opposes with concrete measures the present degeneration of American culture that is being fostered by the fascists and war makers.
In all these general respects Communist policy is obviously in the interests of the American people as a nation. In the international sphere, the Communist Party, in opposition to the imperialists, has always stood on the Marxist-Leninist position that the national welfare is best served by a policy of friendly co-operation with other peoples. In this sense, the very cornerstone of Communist policy has always been to establish good working relations between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. This policy is the key to world peace, and certainly it is in the most profound interest of our whole people.
The Party opposed the imperialist World War I, supported the democratic World War II, and it fights against the precipitation of an imperialist third world war—policies which were and are in the true interests of our people. Before the recent World War the Party urged a strong policy of collective security to halt and defeat fascism, and now only fools dare to assert that this historic policy was not in the American national interest. The Party, too, strives to make the United Nations into a genuine instrument of peace, which the American people certainly desire, instead of the aggressive war alliance into which Wall Street is trying to make it.
In view of the constant fight for the best interests of the nation by the Communist Party, in both its domestic and foreign policies, charges that it "takes orders from Moscow" come with very bad grace, particularly from capitalist sources which, as a matter of fundamental action, always put their class interests before the welfare of the nation. Today, as always, the true capitalist motto is Vanderbilt's "the public be damned."
SOCIALISM IN THE NATIONAL INTEREST
The eventual establishment of socialism in the United States by the working class and its democratic allies will also be supremely in the interest of the overwhelming majority of the American people. As matters now stand, the country is owned and run primarily in the interest of a group of capitalistic parasites who comprise only a very small segment of the population. The 200 major monopolies now possess 65 percent of all American non-financial corporate wealth, as against 50 percent in 1929.1 The capitalist propaganda to the effect that the people own the industries is sheer nonsense—about one percent of all stockholders own about 60 percent of all stock, with dividends in proportion.2 Big capital owns outright the press, radio, television, and motion pictures, as well as all the industries, and its agents occupy the leading posts in the decisive boards of the government, churches, colleges, fraternal and veterans' organizations. They even control the top trade union leadership. The whole vast social organization operates to funnel the products of the workers away from them and into the hands of the minority of drones who own the industries. This is how the latter are enabled to grab for themselves scores of billions of dollars yearly in profits, interest, rent, and in various other schemes for robbing the toilers.
The United States Government is what Karl Marx and Frederick Engels long ago described as "the executive committee of the capitalist class." It is the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, a tiny minority of the population. President Truman represents Wall Street, not the American people. The key government posts are held or controlled by men such as Dulles, Acheson, Lovett, Harriman, Wiggins, Wilson, Johnston, Symington, Brown—wealthy capitalists and corporation lawyers, who are tied in with big monopoly capital and are loyally serving its interests. The workers, Negroes, poor farmers, women, and youth, who make up the overwhelming mass of the American people, are virtually unrepresented in all the branches of the government—legislative, executive, or judicial. The pretenses of Truman and others that the present Administration is a "welfare state" devoted to improving the lot of the American people, is just so much demagogic nonsense. The Administration is entirely under the control of big capital, and it has no other purposes than to swell the already fabulous profits of Wall Street and to further big capital's insane fascist-war drive to dominate the world.
Socialism will drastically change this whole situation in the United States. It will put the ownership and control of the industries, the government, the press, and all other vital institutions into the hands of the overwhelming majority of the people, to serve their interest and not the greed of the profit-grabbers. It will rapidly raise the living standards of the toiling masses by reserving to the workers the many billions in interest, rent, and profits now going to the useless owning parasites; by abolishing the activities of millions of people engaged in the numberless quackeries, fakeries, and useless occupations of capitalism; by applying the newest techniques to industry and agriculture; and by doing away with the tremendous losses caused by economic crises, military armaments, and war.
Socialism in the United States will wipe out the monstrous Jim Crow system. The Negro people, for the first time, will enjoy the dignity and happiness of full equality in every sense of the word: economic, political, social. Socialism, too, will put an end forever to the dread insecurity about the morrow which now haunts the lives of the toiling masses in this country. The masses, at last, will have won their way to a situation where they can have perfect confidence that society will always provide them with a secure means for winning a good livelihood for themselves and their families. And old age will be entirely free of the economic anguish which it now holds for the vast bulk of the American people. American socialism will also develop a culture based upon science and the welfare of the people as a whole, in place of the capitalist-inspired drivel, superstition, and intellectual obscurantism of today.
By the establishment of socialism, the American people will put a final end to the war-fascist policies of Wall Street and will truly open up the way to peace, democracy and well-being on an altogether higher level than is possible under capitalism. There can be no higher national interest than all this.3
THE PARTY'S IMMEDIATE DEMANDS
The Communist Party fights for a series of immediate demands, based upon the urgent needs of the workers, the Negro people, and the mass of the people. As formulated at the Party's Fifteenth Convention (1950) and in later decisions, the chief among these demands are the following.
To guard against war, the Party demands: a five-power peace conference; the banning of the A-bomb; the end of the Korean war; liquidation of the trade embargo against the U.S.S.R., China, and the European People's Democracies; the seating of People's China in the Security Council of the United Nations and its recognition by the United States; the return of Taiwan (Formosa) to China; the withdrawal of all American armed forces stationed in foreign countries; a U.S. hands-off policy toward the peoples' struggles in Indo-China, Malaya, the Philippines, and in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, etc.; national independence for Puerto Rico; severance of all diplomatic relations with Franco Spain and the Vatican; the slashing of U.S. military appropriations to the bone; active support of world disarmament; abandonment of the policy of arming western Europe, West Germany, and Japan for an anti-Soviet war; support for the development of the United Nations into a genuine peace body instead of a U.S.-dominated anti-Soviet war alliance.
To develop safeguards against economic crisis and mass unemployment, the Party demands that America's tremendous producing power-now worse than wasted in the frantic production of war munitions—be applied to furthering the welfare of the American people. It therefore fights for radically higher wages and decreased working hours for the workers, price and profit controls, fundamental improvement of the national system of social insurance (unemployment, sickness, accident, maternity, old age, death), real protection against accidents in industry, construction of all necessary public works (slum clearance, flood control, reforestation, soil conservation, road-building, park and playground construction, etc.), extensive federal aid for the public school system, a national housing program which will provide homes for all, abolition of all taxes upon low incomes, protection for the poorer farmers on prices, credits, morgtages, and co-operatives, adequate safeguards for women and youth in industry.
To combat the increasing trends towards a police state in the United States, the Party's main demands are as follows: repeal the Taft-Hartley, Smith, McCarran, Voorhis, and Feinberg laws, together with all similar national, state, and local legislation; establish the right of the workers to strike in all industries without government interference; abolish all loyalty tests and other systems of thought control in the government services, schools, arts, and industries; liquidate the House Committee on Un-American Activities, together with the McCarran and Humphrev sub-committees of the Senate and all other witch-hunting bodies; grant full citizenship rights for Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Mexicans, and other persecuted minorities; restore the right of passports and foreign travel; relieve foreign-born citizens of the fear of deportation hung over their heads by reactionary legislation; make warmongering a crime punishable by imprisonment; punish anti-Semitism, white chauvinism, and similar anti-democratic practices; halt the attempt to outlaw and destroy the Communist Party; release the Communists and other political prisoners.
To check and defeat the attacks of the white supremacists upon the Negro people, the Party makes these principal demands: complete economic, political, and social equality for the Negro people; the full right of Negroes to employment, seniority, promotion, and trade union conditions in all industries; the enactment of federal and state F.E.P.C. legislation; the passage of a national anti-lynching bill providing the death penalty for this crime; abolition of the poll tax by a federal law; liquidation of the K.u Klux Klan and all such lynch gangs; repeal of all laws against racial intermarriage; the complete wiping out of all Jim Crow legislation, as well as such discrimination on railroads, in schools, hotels, sports, the theater, the armed forces, etc.; the opening up of the highest offices in government, industry, trade unions, and all other organizations and occupations to Negroes and other persecuted minorities; work toward the right of self-determination for the Negro nation in the Black Belt of the South.
In accordance with the needs of the given situation, the Communist Party fights militantly for the achievement of these demands—in legislative bodies, trade unions, factories, and everywhere else. The Party co-operates actively with all democratic forces supporting these or other progressive measures. The heart of its immediate program is the struggle against the war danger. To this end, it works for the formation of a broad peace coalition of the organizations of the workers, the Negro people, the poorer farmers, intellectuals, and all other democratic strata, constituting the vast majority of the American people.
These major points of Communist immediate policy, outlined above, comprise a sane, practical, and constructive alternative to the present reactionary policies of the employers and the government, which are pushing the country down the chute to war, fascism, mass impoverishment, and national ruin. The Communist program, harmonizing with the best interests of the working class, the Negro people, and the great bulk of our nation, constitutes the road to peace, democracy, and the people's economic well-being.
THE PROGRESS OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY
The Communist Party is the party of socialism. The Communist parties have demonstrated this in practice in various parts of the world. The Socialist parties are parties of capitalism and are doomed with that system. This, too, as we have seen, has been clearly proved in many countries. With the general crisis of world capitalism more completely involving the capitalist system of the United States, the toiling masses— the workers, the Negro people, the farmers, intellectuals, and others-will strengthen enormously their economic and political organizations, and they will build themselves a great anti-monopoly coalition. The political leaders of this mass movement, if it is to fight effectively and eventually to challenge capitalism, must be the Marxist-Leninists, the Communist Party. Stalin was right when he said, on May 6, 1929, "The American Communist Party is one of those very few Communist parties of the world that are entrusted by history with tasks of decisive importance from the point of view of the revolutionary movement."4
It is no simple task to build a mass Communist Party in the heartland of world capitalism, the United States. During its lifetime the Communist Party of the United States has had to meet and master many difficult questions of theory and practice. The toughest and most complex of all these problems have been related to the characteristic illusion of "American exceptionalism." According to this stubborn and insidious notion, as we have remarked earlier, American capitalism is progressive in character, and is fundamentally distinct from capitalism in all other countries. This gross misconception, which has persisted for generations, falsely magnifies the secondary, specifically national features of American capitalism into qualities which supposedly make it basically different from capitalism in the rest of the world. It is in this spirit that the defenders of the current American regime proclaim that American capitalism is not imperialist; that it has no ruling class nor class struggle; that it does not exploit the workers; and that, in fact, it is not really capitalism at all. This song is sung with variations by reactionaries, liberals, and Social-Democrats. Never was this typical "American exceptionalism" more virulent and dangerous than it is at the present time. Thus aggressive American imperialism is pictured to the masses here and throughout the world not only as totally exempt from the general crisis of capitalism, but also as an all-powerful and beneficent people's regime altruistically resolved upon saving the world for democracy and peace. 5 In its long struggle against the illusion of "American exceptionalism," the Communist Party has rendered one of its greatest services to the working class.
During its generation of struggle, naturally the Communist Party has made many errors, for Marxism-Leninism is not a blueprint that can be mechanically applied, but a guide to action that must be skillfully used. Most of the Party's more serious mistakes, which we have reviewed in passing, have been in the direction of yielding to "American exceptionalism." The consequences of this error have been to overestimate the power of American imperialism and to underestimate its reactionary character. By the same token, it underestimates the power of the working class and its allies. Sometimes this characteristic American deviation has manifested itself in the Party as "left" sectarianism and sometimes as right oppdrtunism. The worst political mistake ever made by the Communist Party—its temporary toleration of Browder's revisionism—was precisely an error of "American exceptionalism." Rrowder carried this theoretical weakness, which saturates American Social-Democrats as well as bourgeois elements, to the last extreme of accepting American monopoly capital as progressive and democratic.
As we have seen, the traditional weakness of our Party and of preceding Marxist groups has been the stubborn trend toward "left" sectarianism. Historically, this sectarian tendency to use Marxism as a dogma instead of a guide has been largely an immature political reaction against right opportunism in the labor movemnt: It has militated very greatly against the development of sound political policies and the working out of broad united front movements with potential allies: the more conservative workers, the Negro people, the Catholic masses, the farmers, the progressive intellectuals, and others. The basic cure for both the right and left dangers in the Party is to raise the Marxist-Leninist theoretical level of the Party membership and leadership.
The strength of the Party, however, is that in the spirit of the great Lenin it admits its errors and learns from them. No other party does this. In this respect Lenin says: "The attitude a political party adopts toward its own mistakes is one of the most important and surest criteria of the seriousness of the party and of how it in practice fulfills its obligations toward its class and the toiling masses. Frankly admitting a mistake, disclosing the reasons for it, analyzing the conditions which led to it, and carefully discussing the means of correcting it—this is the sign of a serious party; this is the way it performs its duties, this is the way it educates and trains the class, and then the masses." 6
Another strength of the Communist Party is that it builds itself out of the best fighters of the working class. It ruthlessly cleanses its ranks of the opportunists, cowards, weaklings, confusionists, turncoats, renegades, and stoolpigeons who, from time to time and for their own peculiar purposes have infested its ranks, as they do those of all working class fighting organi. zations. In this respect the Communist Party differs fundamentally from the Socialist Party, which is a nesting ground for every kind of anti-working class element. Thus, in the course of its growth, our Party has elimi-nated the Cannons, Lovestones, Browders, and their like. The ouster of such people has meant not losses to the Party, but gains. The Communist Party of the United States, like the Communist parties of all other countries, has developed and increased in strength by its struggles against such agents of the capitalist class.
After a generation of hard struggle, the Communist Party has laid the foundation for what will eventually be a powerful mass party in the United States. It has created a solid, indestructible core of trained Marxist-Leninists. This is its most vital achievement of all. The Party, it is true, is still relatively small, but like all other Communist parties it has the capacity for swift growth when the political situation demands it. Today in many countries—in the Soviet Union, China, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and elsewhere—Communist parties stand at the head of their peoples; and in other countries like Italy and France, they are the biggest of all political parties. But the time was when these parties, too, were all very small, condemned, persecuted, and faced what superficially seemed like an invincible opposition. The Communist Party of the United States works and grows in the spirit of these Communist parties. It knows that, living up to the principles of Marxism-Leninism, it will one day lead the American working class and the nation, even as it is now the best representative of their interests. Nor can all the powers of arrogant capitalist reaction balk the C.P.U.S.A. from fulfilling this historic role.
1 Jefferson School of Social Science, The Economic Crisis and the Cold War, p. 40.
2 U.S. government figures cited in Labor Research Association, Trends in American Capitalism, p. 14.
3 See A. B. Magil, Socialism: What's in It for You, N. Y., 1946, and James S. Allen, Who Owns America, N. Y., 1946.
4 The Communist, June 1930.
5 A recent flamboyant statement of this demagogy is U.S.A.: The Permanent Revolution by the editors of Fortune.
6 Lenin, "Left-Wing" Communism-, an Infantile Disorder, p. 41.
Appendix, Index & Partial Bibliography
Appendix, Index & Partial Bibliography