February 27, 2010

Why the CPUSA is Revisionist & Why There is a Need For the American Party of Labor


It has been asked of the American Party of Labor (APL) many times why we felt that there was a need for yet another communist party in the United States. After all, there is the nominally Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of the USA (CPUSA), the nominally Maoist Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), and of course dozens of Trotskyite factions in the U.S. The Central Committee of the APL felt that there was a need to explain why a new Party is necessary. We do not think that anyone needs to have the differences between ourselves and the Trotskyites rehashed here yet again, but rest assured that in this first volume the APL will write an article in that direction. The question that is most pressing is, why is there is a need to break with the other traditional parties in the U.S.? In this article, Revolutionary Spirit will attempt to briefly examine the CPUSA, which is the largest ostensibly communist party in the U.S. and has been around in one incarnation or another since the 1920's.

The CPUSA has a very long and varied history. In fact, it was at its peak in the early 1930s. Since World War II the Party has slid into severe revisionism and reformism. Some of this can be blamed on the Khrushchevite revisionism coming from Moscow, which caused problems not only in the Soviet Union but also in most of Eastern Europe, and some can be summed up in an examination of Browderism as a form of revisionism in the United States. A full discussion of this would have to include a great deal of discussion on the concepts of revisionism, social-imperialism and the contributions of comrade Enver Hoxha of Albania to the post-Stalin era of Marxism-Leninism. This article shall not delve too deeply into that arena, as comrade Hoxha wrote about it extensively and his works can be located on the APL recommended readings list. Instead, we will discuss the homegrown revisionism of the past, present and future within the CPUSA and show why the CPUSA is leading itself down a path toward liquidation and is in fact currently aiding imperialism and capitalism at home and abroad.

Earl Browder, Gus Hall & the Beginnings of Revisionism

The first question that is usually asked when someone hears an individual cadre or group calling the CPUSA "revisionist," or phony Marxist, is where did the revisionism start? For the CPUSA, the revisionism began earlier than in most other parties around the world. In the mid-1930s, Earl Browder was elected to the position of General Secretary of the “Communist Party of America,” as the CPUSA was then named.

The policies started under Earl Browder play a key role in the rise of revisionism in the CPUSA, since Earl Browder paved the way for Gus Hall, who in turn paved the way for Sam Webb, who runs the CPUSA today, and the future liquidation of the CPUSA, much like Khrushchev and Brezhnev paved the way for Gorbachev and the counter-revolution in the Soviet Union.

Browder had backed the inclusion of large sections of the petty-bourgeoisie into the party. While that in and of itself does not necessarily cause revisionism, it does open up a party, any party, to revisionism. Marx and Engels stressed over and over in their writings that the petty-bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeois cadres could not be trusted to bring the revolution fully; in fact they were vacillating and might eventually come to a point where they would hinder the revolutionary mission of any communist party. Lenin stressed repeatedly in his writings that too many petty-bourgeoisie in the vanguard party would, over the course of time, dilute the revolutionary fervor of the party and they could not be relied on in revolutionary situations. Marx, Engels and Lenin were all right in this area.

Under the leadership of Earl Browder, the Communist Party of America started to include all manner of petty-bourgeoisie within itself and slowly purged the working class elements. It also began implementing a “new strategy” of trying to simply win reforms through the bourgeois democratic process. While this is fully supported within the context of tactics employed by Marxist-Leninist parties, this has can never be a strategy of a revolutionary party. The end goal of a revolutionary party must be revolution and not mere reforms. The Party also began supporting a tactic of working entirely within the imperialist bourgeois parties of the United States without the benefit of a communist party as a proletarian vanguard. This eventually culminated in the liquidation of the Communist Party of America in 1946 and the transformation into the Communist Political Association.

Beginning in the 1950s, however, the need for a communist party reasserted itself and the CPUSA was born around the person of Gus Hall, whose ideology was at best weak and at worst revisionist. To illustrate, there are many articles by Gus Hall where he asserts that the CPUSA’s revolution will be by the ballot box. Even though Hall in words placed this as the end goal of a revolutionary party, there is neither now nor has there ever been in the past any ruling class that has willingly given up its status as a ruling class without violent overthrow. This was true of the feudal aristocracy of old, and this will be true of the capitalist bourgeoisie. Indeed, many would go on to call this an iron universal law of class dictatorship, as this has been the case from time immemorial.

We must also point out that using bourgeois elections to campaign for congress, president or on the state/local level is not, in and of itself, completely at odds with Marxism-Leninism or even a dialectical analysis of history. Rather as Lenin himself pointed out, elections and running of candidates by communist parties are only useful insofar as the masses view the elections and the candidates elected by them as representative of themselves. However, this line of thinking was not on the agenda for Browder, and most certainly is not on the mind of Sam Webb today.

Sam Webb & the Modern CPUSA

Having covered both Browder and Hall now we must turn our attention to the CPUSA as it exists today. Why is it necessary for Marxist-Leninists who are in the CPUSA to leave? Why is it necessary for those who are being introduced to Marxism-Leninism to reject the CPUSA as a viable vanguard party for the American people? Why is the APL necessary for an American socialist revolution? Since the election of Sam Webb as General Secretary (later changed to National Chairman) in 1999 there has been an exponential increase in revisionism in the CPUSA. What is the basis of that revisionism? First and foremost the CPUSA itself is moving away from the Leninist principle of the vanguard party.

In Political Affairs, the CPUSA’s “theoretical journal,” Sam Webb claimed that:
“Both in the transition to socialism and in its construction, I don’t foresee Communists being the sole decision makers. We will be one political force within a much larger coalition. We are getting away from the notion that the Communists are the ‘top dog’ in the struggle for socialism while other political forces will either merge or come in behind us. In our view, we will be one component of a very diverse coalition, at the center of which is the working class, the racially and nationally oppressed, and women. Of course, in such a varied coalition, there will be competing views and we will forthrightly express ours, but our emphasis will be on cooperation, on finding common ground, on unity” (Webb 2004).
So then one must immediately ask: who will be the proletarian vanguard if not the communists? We have seen repeatedly that, as Lenin said, the working class on their own can at best obtain a trade unionist mentality. We have also seen throughout world history that a hodgepodge of movements generally does not create a revolution. Were the opposite true the petty-bourgeois and upper-strata proletarian movements and radicalism of the 1960s and 1970s would have culminated in revolution. Having a collection of groups as a vanguard for anything except a united front has never shown any historical merit. The vanguard party is absolutely vital and essential for revolution, be that revolution in a comparatively backward state like imperial Russia in 1917 or in a comparatively advanced state like imperial America in 2010. Without the vanguard party at its head, the proletariat is leaderless, teacherless and helpless. It has become painfully obvious throughout the course of the 20th century that without a revolutionary party led by a revolutionary ideology, revolution is impossible.

Sam Webb has taken the theories of Gus Hall involving bourgeois democracy to its logical conclusion. Instead of communists participating in bourgeois democracy by running communist candidates and relying on a “victory through the ballot box,” Sam Webb calls for communists to not only vote, but throw their weight behind bourgeois candidates. The Democratic Party and the trade unions are the vanguard of Webb’s movement, not the communist party.

In one of Webb’s many revisionist writings in the People’s World, Webb expressed his disturbing views of Barack Obama. It goes beyond just “liking” the imperialist candidate—Webb seems to have joined the all-pervasive cult of personality around him.
“President Obama is a brilliant politician, but his election victory was as much the doing of the broad coalition that supported him, as it was his own brilliance. The alliance of candidate and coalition was mutually dependent, dynamic, and decisive in the end” (Webb 2009).
Webb continues in what is quite possibly hiss most disturbing article in the People’s World, entitled “A Ragged Process”:
“Slightly over a year ago, the American people elected a young African American to the presidency and increased the Democratic majorities in the Congress. President Obama's victory represented a repudiation of the right-wing ideology, politics and economics. It constituted a serious setback for neo-liberalism in both its conservative and liberal skin” (Webb 2009).
What should strike a Marxist-Leninist here is that he has transferred the class enemy to this nebulous “extreme right-wing” and not the bourgeoisie itself, which is the key component of both parties. In fact, the APL rejects both the Republicans and Democrats as bourgeois imperialist parties which are incapable of any long term reform or even the construction of socialism. Webb continues however:
“The defeat of right-wing extremism was a long time in coming, but when it finally happened it did so not only because of the brilliance of the candidate, now president, but also due to the broad wings of a people's coalition. Not in our lifetime have we participated in such a movement” (Webb 2009).
So the selection by the bourgeoisie of a black man to be their figurehead is a “victory over right-wing extremism?” It would be interesting to hear Mr. Webb explain to people how there are Tea Party protestors running around, how racist extremism is stronger than ever, and how capitalism is still continuing to become more openly terrorist than before. Obama’s electoral victory, while historic due to his “race,” constitutes neither a fundamental change in the policy or politics of the bourgeois republic nor a step forward in the construction of a socialist state—or for that matter even social democracy. Even the bill that will be presented for his signature regarding health care reform will amount to little more than a handout to the insurance companies, which themselves make profits denying workers the health care they need.
Webb’s sheer love for the Democrats is apparently without bounds however, as upon the death of Ted Kennedy, Webb wrote:
“Two ‘lions’ died last week. One was known, adored by millions, and a life-long Democrat. Born to a privileged life, he could have done anything, including choosing a life of relative leisure. Instead, he turned into a tireless liberal warhorse for justice in all its many forms. […] On Saturday a Catholic mass, included a eulogy by President Obama, celebrated his life of public service to the commonwealth. I am obviously speaking about Senator Ted Kennedy” (Webb 2009).
Further, in “A Ragged Process,” Sam Webb explained his support for Obama and his departure from Leninism. It was, as we suspected, wretched, outward reformism and nothing more or less than a complete departure from class struggle and Marxism altogether.
“The notion of the capitalist class on the one side and the working class on the other may sound ‘radical,’ but it is neither Marxist, nor found in life and politics. Pure forms exist in high theory, but nowhere else” (Webb 2009).
For a so-called “Marxist” to try and state that there is not a bourgeoisie and not a proletariat in the US is absolutely absurd and idealistic. There is not and never will be absolute agreement as to which particular strata of people constitute the bourgeoisie, petty-bourgeoisie and proletariat due to constantly changing circumstances. There is, however, very clear and scientific evidence that there are defined classes in capitalist society. One that lives by the labor of others (the bourgeoisie), those who sell their labor power for sustenance (the proletariat) and those that own small means of production and may or may not employ the labor of others (the petty-bourgeoisie). To deny this is to deny class struggle, to deny how capitalism works and to deny all of Marxist science.

The fact that there exists a proletariat and a bourgeoisie may sound “radical” to Sam Webb, but an analysis of society would tell us that it is an accurate assessment of the conditions we find under capitalism. This basic condition has not changed since Karl Marx first proposed it nearly over a hundred years ago.

On Smashing the Capitalist State

Again in Political Affairs, Sam Webb expressed his views on the capitalist state. Contrary to Leninist principle of tearing down the bourgeois state, the CPUSA wishes to “improve” this state, by creating a “Socialist Bill of Rights.”
“I don’t think that the political structures that currently exist will be dismantled. Nor do I think that a socialist movement will sideline the Bill of Rights, the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence or a system of checks and balances on concentrated political power. It may want to extend, deepen or modify them based on both experience and the needs of socialist construction” (Webb 2004).
So Webb, and by default the CPUSA, rather than working toward a revolution and its necessary consequence of the abandonment of the bourgeois constitution and smashing of the bourgeois political organizations, instead seem to think that the inclusion of some bill of social rights will result in socialism. Webb must be deluded if he thinks the bourgeoisie will ever agree to a socialist bill of rights that actually protects the social rights of proletarians—that is, the right to be educated to their highest ability, the right to have a place to live, the right to have food to eat, the right to get medical care when sick. The bourgeoisie by their class nature has no interest in providing such rights to the proletariat. It goes against their class needs, wants, aspirations, and in fact would even weaken their position as the ruling class.

Since 1973, the American bourgeoisie has worked to prevent full employment and economic security for the proletariat. They have learned what results from this among the proletariat and even the petty-bourgeoisie, even in the absence of a strong Marxist-Leninist party. The result of course was the Civil Rights movement, the Women’s movement and the Native American’s movement just to name a few. They are not about to jeopardize their power if they can help it. That is the nature of how ruling classes operate and America is no exception.

Furthermore, the US Constitution itself, while it does not directly mandate the capitalist system in words, does reinforce it, and the entire edifice of bourgeois democracy, which is the single most effective tool at the disposal of the imperialist bourgeoisie to maintain their political power. One need only look at the actual existence of states, which are little more than administrative districts in the US rather than national territories or semi-autonomous regions. Most states are completely and totally dependent upon the Federal Government to make up the difference between their revenues and spending. The inclusion of the Electoral Collage in the Constitution itself is one of the most anti-bourgeois-democratic instruments in the US Constitution. It has been used dozens of times to protect the interests of reactionaries and unpopular politicians in the bourgeois republic. This is not even to mention the US Senate, a body directly responsible for and in fact created for the purpose of a check on the democratic power of the population at large and the working class in particular. There is a joke on Capitol Hill that “the US Senate is where mediocre legislation goes to be made terrible.

A socialist revolution cannot rely on a “Socialist Bill of Rights.” A socialist revolution must sweep away the old order forcefully and replace it with a new one. This includes the Constitution, its so-called “Bill of Rights,” the Declaration of Independence and all other manifestations of the bourgeois dictatorship. Before some begin to wax apoplectic over the “Bill of Rights,” let us say that rights in and of themselves have a class character, as does everything else. In the US, the freedom of the press is restricted to those who have the means to own a press. The people at best have the “freedom of talk,” which can be and is frequently taken away when the bourgeois dictatorship deems it necessary. As Lenin rightly pointed out concerning the concept of freedom: “Freedom, for whom? And to do what?"

The construction of socialist relations on the press alone requires that there be an abolition of bourgeois control over the press organs be they radio, television, internet or the traditional press. To establish a proletarian dictatorship the revolutionary state must extend rights to the proletariat and their allied classes to the exclusion of the exploiting classes.

Support of “Market Socialism” & Revisionism

Sam Webb and the CPUSA have gone so far into revisionism that they have described countries such as China, Vietnam and Cuba as “socialist” and have also described the way in which the CPUSA would employ “market mechanisms” in socialist construction in much the same manner as those revisionist countries have.
“Many countries that have a socialist orientation are in the developing world: China, Vietnam, Cuba. Several have adopted a concept of socialism called market socialism. I know we have said there are no models, but is the socialist market economy the new model?” (Webb 2004).
“These countries are in the early stages of socialism – they are developing countries and the productive forces are at a low level – so they are employing market mechanisms to assist in their economic development. This doesn’t contradict the thinking of Marx, Engels or Lenin. Even if we were dealing with more advanced countries – take our country for example - if this were the day after, the week after, the year after, the decade after the socialist revolution, we would employ market mechanisms in the construction of the socialist economy” (Webb 2004).
First off, if Webb considers “market socialist” revisionism as his model for socialist construction he is deluded. The Peoples’ Republic of China has never been a socialist country. It is a consistent criticism of the APL that the Chinese Communist Party not only included some elements of the bourgeoisie within its ranks but actively during the industrialization phase permitted these same bourgeoisie to appropriate some 25% of the surplus value created through the production process. This continued even up to the death of Mao Zedong and since the premiership of Deng Xiaoping has actually increased. Combined with their imperialist foreign policy, this would make the PRC a clear example of state-capitalism and social-imperialism.

The Cuban Revolution is a complex matter. The APL stands, first and foremost, against U.S. imperialism and in support of the Cuban Revolution, praising their victory in the Bay of Pigs and their struggle against the blockade, as well as their progressive and national liberation characteristics. An analysis of the class nature of Cuban reveals it to not be a dictatorship proletariat or a socialist state. Cuba itself was a supporter of Soviet social-imperialism up to the very end and even today. Castro helped espouse Soviet revisionism, including Khrushchev’s imperialist “International Division of Labor” that hindered Cuban industrialization by specializing the economy to produce sugar cane to export to the Soviet Union, turning it into a colony of the Soviets. The APL recognizes the strategic location and importance of Cuba to both U.S. and Soviet imperialists. It is arguable that Cuba was left with the choice between being an U.S. or Soviet colony on pain of military intervention. It is also arguable that Cuba chose the less brutal option, and the blame for Cuba's lack of self-reliance is the doing of Moscow more so then Havana. This also does not mean we can simply forget the errors of the past, nor excuse the continued support of the Khrushchev–Gorbachev line of social-imperialist Soviet Union to this day on the part of the Cubans.

Vietnam is perhaps the only country which Webb listed that has had anything approaching socialism, although their progressive government as it existed under Ho Chi-Minh is long gone and the introduction of a market mechanism has resulted in the rise of a state-capitalist bourgeoisie.

Support For Imperialism & Imperialist War

If the almost complete rejection of Marxism-Leninism seen so far were not enough, as if the liquidationist tendency of the CPUSA were not enough, there are still more disturbing trends in the CPUSA to list, namely the rejection of even Marxist economics and the taking of decidedly pro-imperialist war stances. We will deal with the latter first. According to Marxism-Leninism Today, the following resolution was shot down by the CPUSA National Committee (the organ of the CPUSA that acts as a Central Committee) by a vote of 34-2. It reads:
“Whereas, the Bush Administration launched a war on Afghanistan in 2001 for the purpose of controlling the Central Asian region's oil, natural gas and other resources, and to gain strategic geopolitical advantage over U.S. rivals in Europe and Asia; and,
Whereas, this mercenary, imperialist war of aggression was sold to the U.S. people and the world public on the basis of brazen lies, first as a bid to protect the U.S. people from terrorism and then as a project to bring democracy to Afghanistan; and,
Whereas, over 918 U.S. troops have been killed since the war began, and at least three times that number have been seriously injured; and,
Whereas, at least 28,000 Afghans have been killed directly or indirectly as a result of this war, over 3.7 million have been displaced, and their economy has been shattered; and,
Whereas, corporations linked to the military-industrial complex have obtained obscene profits from this war; and,
Whereas, the cost of waging this war and occupation – $200 billion by conservative estimates – has led to the starving of badly needed social, jobs and education programs in the U.S.; and,
Whereas, the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is now 68,000, more than twice the number when George W. Bush left office; and
Whereas, there are at least 70,000 U.S. private contractors and mercenaries in Afghanistan, many of whom are directly involved in prosecuting the war by helping to load bombs on drones, provide "security services," and the like;
Therefore be it resolved, that the Communist Party, USA, calls for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all U.S. forces, including military troops, contractors and mercenaries from Afghanistan; and,
Be it further resolved, that reparations be paid to the Afghan people from the U.S. to restore their economy to its pre-war state and as restitution for the injuries and suffering inflicted upon them; and,
Be it further resolved, that such reparations come from the profits of U.S. war profiteers in the first place; and,
Be it further resolved, that the responsible officials in the U.S. government, starting with President George W. Bush, be prosecuted for war crimes before an international tribunal; and,
Be it further resolved, that the content of this resolution be communicated to the mass media. December 12, 2009” (“MLToday”).
This, in essence, means the CPUSA has adopted a pro-Afghan war stance in support of their new leader, Barack Obama. Their support of imperialist aggression goes further when it comes to their position on the nuclear programs of the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea, otherwise known as “North Korea.” In a People’s World article appallingly entitled, North Korea: NO WAY TO ACT!, the CPUSA came out hard against the right of the Korean people to have access to nuclear technology:
“North Korea's recent nuclear test, as well as its subsequent test firing of two missiles, represents a grave threat to peace and stability in the region, the fight to eliminate nuclear weapons from the world and, more generally, the fight for peace and social progress. […] We condemn these reckless and provocative acts” ("People's Weekly World").
Not only do they condemn these acts as provocation on the part of North Korea rather than the US imperialists, but, in this particular article refuse to acknowledge that the DPRK is the victim of imperialist aggression at all. They say:
“North Korea has claimed that it has been the victim of imperialist aggression, specifically from the United States” ("People's Weekly World").
Despite what the CPUSA may think, it most certainly not a “claim” that the North Koreans are being targeted and victimized by the United States, but a simple fact that is obvious to even the most dunderheaded of individuals. In their article, the CPUSA avoids at all costs confirming American imperialism to be a fact and end up aligning themselves against the anti-imperialist government of the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea.

It should be obvious to anyone who is a mature Marxist-Leninist that we must align ourselves against imperialism even if that means supporting unsavory and even reactionary politicians and characters in foreign countries. Indeed, without the freedom from foreign occupation and imperialism, bourgeois-democratic and socialist revolutions are made exponentially more difficult. Lenin’s thesis on the Right of Nations to Self-Determination is still relevant to all those who have not strived to come under the wing of the bourgeoisie.

Just when you thought the CPUSA couldn’t possibly make a bigger mockery of even the smallest basic tenets of Marxism, they have also set about abandoning Marxist economics. While Sam Webb and his bourgeois economics degree on “financialization” do not help, the worst of the worst has to be CPUSA “economist” John Case. Case has done perhaps the most ridiculous thing ever in the history of economics—he has created an economic theory based on a Bob Dylan song (Case 2009).

Aside from being flat-out incorrect almost all of the time, Case has decided to create what he calls “Lonesome Hobo” economics, in which every article he writes begins with and is focused on an excerpt from the lyrics of the Bob Dylan song “The Lonesome Hobo.” You cannot make such tripe up!

On Breaking From Vs. Reforming the CPUSA

The blatant revisionism coming from the leadership of the CPUSA could not be made more crystal clear. These factors alone necessitate a clear break from the CPUSA and the formation of a new anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninist Party.

There are those well-meaning Marxists out there who imagine that we can “take back” the CPUSA from the revisionist leadership currently running it. Aside from pointing out in no uncertain terms that there is no reason to paint the house because the structure is too rotten, the APL can only say that dissent in the CPUSA, especially Marxist dissent, is resolutely crushed. Marxist-Leninist parties always have a great deal of debate and discussion as to strategy and tactics, but in the CPUSA the policy and politics are set nationally and then enforced locally. Any who wish to criticize the leadership of the CPUSA are usually pressured to either conform to the official revisionism de jour or are expelled from the party.

Secondly, those that are allowed into the CPUSA usually try and tackle the problems within the CPUSA through usual party channels, which are controlled by reformists and revisionists themselves. People are unable to make a fundamental break with the CPUSA and continue to support the CPUSA without regard to its clear revisionism, simply because it is named the “communist” party and it still presumably has a large size. This is in direct imitation of the failed tactics of William Z. Foster when he combated liquidationism in the Browder era. William Z. Foster failed in his reformist tactics, and doubtlessly these cadres will too. These well-meaning individuals ignore the fact that the material conditions today are different then they were then, and hence a victory against the CPUSA leadership is highly unlikely.


All of these factors make one see the need for an organized break from the CPUSA. Not just individual cadres leaving, but a large number of cadres rejecting the CPUSA and coming together to form a new anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninist Party. This will both cripple the CPUSA revisionists politically, and set the right conditions for the establishment of a new vanguard party, much like Lenin's split with the Social Democrats or the national-chauvinist Second International. The Party already in formation is the American Party of Labor. It is the mind of the author and his comrades that only this new party can attract the non-ideological workers and bring in the experienced Marxist-Leninists to create the conditions necessary for socialist revolution, and be the vanguard party of the proletariat and the proletarian dictatorship following the socialist revolution.


"Another Dark Day in CPUSA History." MLToday. 12 Dec. 2009. Marxism-Leninism Today, Web.

Case, John. "Reforming CEO Compensation - How Much is Enough?." People's World 29 Sept. 2009, Print.

"North Korea: No Way To Act." People's Weekly World 27 May 2009, Print.

Webb, Sam. "A Ragged Process." People's World 29 Oct. 2009, Print.

---. "Democracy Matters: An Interview With Sam Webb." Political Affairs 07 Jan. 2004: n. pag. Web.

---. "Obama Needs A Little Help From His Friends." People's World 02 Sept. 2009: n. pag. Web. 18 Feb 2010. .

---. "On the Passing of Two "Lions"." People's World 30 Aug. 2009, Print.