This Program was adopted at the 1st Convention of the Communist Workers Platform held on the 8th and 9th of July, 2023.
I. What Is the Communist Workers’ Platform?
1. Laying the Foundation for a Communist Party
The Communist Workers’ Platform USA is a Marxist-Leninist organization, one that is laying the foundation for a new communist party within the United States. We observe that there is now no proletarian organization, schooled in the revolutionary theory of Marxism-Leninism, to lead the momentary struggles of the working class in preparation for the revolutionary seizure of power and construction of socialism in this country.
The nominally “communist” and “socialist” parties have so far refused to take up this essential task, instead seeking policies of reform in alliance with the “progressive” wing of the Democratic Party. This short-sighted strategy—justified, sometimes by allusions to the failed popular front strategy of the Comintern, but more often by vague references to the “far-right danger”—has led these parties down the path of opportunism, forcing them to surrender leadership of the working class movement to the bourgeoisie. This phenomenon—far from unique to the US, though particularly intense here—is part of a much broader opportunist trend within the international communist movement, which has previously culminated in the counterrevolutionary overthrow of the European socialist countries at the end of the previous century.
2. The Trajectory of the International Communist Movement
The overthrow of socialism provided a second wind for the capitalist system, which until then had been stuck in a deepening crisis since the 1970s. To foreign and domestic capital were opened wide tracts of land, ample natural resources, and an enormous workforce, all of which could now be fully exploited. The restoration of capitalism also opened these countries up to new imperialist wars of conquest, such as the Yugoslav Wars. Though the USSR had been destroyed, the peoples of the former Soviet republics continued to resist this re-division of the world.
Following the counterrevolution was a period of relative stability in the capitalist system, feeding the illusions of the “failure of communism,” of class peace and capitalist permanency. These illusions were readily adopted by the opportunists and used to justify liquidationism, reformism, the repudiation of Marxism-Leninism, of theory in general. However, even in this period, there remained a minority of ideologically steeled communists fighting against these opportunists despite this enormous ebb in the revolutionary movement. They correctly understood that this ebb was just that, an ebb, a momentary withdrawal of the international proletarian revolution that would inevitably be followed by a new revolutionary upsurge, one motivated by crises born of the irreconcilable contradictions inherent to the capitalist system.
We can already see this in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the global financial crisis of 2007, the COVID-19 pandemic, and now the war in Ukraine. The Marxist-Leninist world outlook has been vindicated, though, with the capitalist-imperialist system on the brink of yet another general inter-imperialist war between the emerging imperialist camps of the US-EU-NATO on the one hand, and Russia, Iran, China, and their allies on the other. At the same time, the conditions for a new proletarian revolution are ripening, as the capitalist class has failed to provide any meaningful solutions for existential issues such as the climate crisis, the public health crisis, the growing far-right movement, and the threat of nuclear war. Only an international socialist system can resolve these issues definitively for the benefit of the working class and oppressed peoples of the world.
3. Forging Ideological Unity and Organizational Leadership
The CWPUSA strives to create a foothold in the US for the international re-grouping of the communist forces in preparation for the counter-offensive against the capitalist class. We are determined to unite the communist and working-class movement in this country on an ideological basis by demonstrating the validity and utility of Marxism-Leninism in the emancipation of the working class. Our publication, New Worker, is the main tool for creating this ideological unity. Through New Worker, the CWPUSA will disseminate its ideological outlook to bring the working class to the revolutionary position of Marxism-Leninism.
We seek to organize the Marxist-Leninists of this country into local committees, tasked with bridging the gap between the communist and labor movements and into workplace cells tasked with leading and agitating the workers around the systemic failures of the capitalist system and thus, the need to establish socialism. The local committees and workplace cells, fractions, and other types of Party Base Organizations (PBOs) must also work within any popular movement where opportunities can be found for the cultivation of communist leadership, particularly the movements for women, black and indigenous people, immigrants, students, elderly and disabled people, and LGBTQ+ people. We must show that these struggles cannot be resolved without ending capitalism and that socialism-communism is the only system that can fully satisfy their demands.
These are the basic, critical tasks we must fulfill to ensure our success in creating a truly revolutionary organization that will not fall prey to opportunism. The construction of these local organizations is the means by which our cadres can stay closely connected with the workers and popular strata, without which any communist party would be weak and plagued by ideological deviations and bureaucratic trifling.
We must do everything possible to cultivate these connections and bring the advanced workers into our ranks to create a solid proletarian social composition within the organization. Only then, can we truly fulfill the vanguard role of the communist party.
II. A Communist Party is Necessary
Experience shows that a proletarian revolution cannot be carried out without the leadership of the communist party. The class-conscious elements of the working class and popular strata need to organize themselves in a single organization of revolutionaries that spends years preparing the rest of the working class for revolution. This is done by guiding the workers’ daily struggles and teaching them the proletarian world outlook, Marxism-Leninism, so that the workers may understand their class position, the general line of struggle for their class, and the strategy and methods to achieve their emancipation. The communist party is the highest form of proletarian organization with aspects that distinguish it from other proletarian organizations and allow it to carry out its historical objective.
1. Aspects of the Communist Party
The communist party is the revolutionary party of the working class. It works for the seizure of political power and the transition of capitalist society to socialism-communism. It is opposed to the idea of fighting exclusively for reforms or “transitional governments” on the road to socialism. The communist party recognizes that reforms provide only a temporary respite to the working class and that all worthwhile reforms are won in the course of the struggle for the revolutionary seizure of state power.
The communist party is the vanguard detachment of the working class. It consists of the proletariat’s most class-conscious, resolute members who are leading its daily struggles and teaching the class its general interests. This is the emancipation of the working class through the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat for the construction of socialism-communism. The communist party links the working class’ various mass organizations and movements together to form a single front against the capitalists, safeguarding itself and the mass organizations from co-optation by reformism and adventurism, which lead the working class movement to ruin.
The communist party is a system of organizations operating on the principle of democratic centralism. The principles of democratic centralism are as follows:
- That all directing bodies of the Party, from top to bottom, shall be elected;
- That Party bodies shall give periodical accounts of their activities to their respective Party organizations;
- That there shall be strict Party discipline and the subordination of the minority to the majority;
- That all decisions of higher bodies shall be absolutely binding on lower bodies and on all Party members.
The Party is composed of small party base organizations (i.e., units, cells, etc.) that act with initiative in their area of responsibility based on their workplace or geographic location and actively work in setting the policy of the party, but are also bound to the discipline of the Party and must carry out the decisions of higher party bodies. This ensures the highest degree of local flexibility without compromising the party’s ability to act as one. This system of organizations is also well suited for fighting under the worst conditions, including illegality since it reduces exposure and cultivates initiative and leadership in the rank-and-file, which may not receive frequent directives from the party center if safely sending those communications has become difficult. Special attention must be paid to the conditions of illegality that historical parties have experienced. This is a condition the communists in the US today are not familiar with, and currently have no structure to guard against the possibility of a legal crackdown or full-fledged bans by the state on communist work. To not prepare for this possibility – indeed, inevitability – is to make a fatal error far in advance.
2. The Party Arises from the Needs of the Working Class Movement
The communist party is not an organizational form that is being imposed on the working class movement. This particular form of proletarian organization arose from the concrete needs of the movement that stemmed from its struggle against the capitalist class. The working class possesses a vast numerical advantage over the capitalists and their agents, but that can only be taken advantage of, if the working class is united into one organization and guided by the most advanced theory. Unless the working class is united in this way, they can easily be outmaneuvered or set against each other by the capitalist class in the long run, despite momentary successes on particular economic or political demands.
For this reason, the working class movement in the 19th century created its first distinct political parties under the leadership of Marx and Engels, leading to the formation of the International Workingmen’s Association. From the outset, these parties were revolutionary parties opposed to reformist methods that are doomed to failure.
This lesson was lost on the leaders of the parties of the Second International, who sank to the level of reformism and repudiated revolution. It was Lenin and the Bolsheviks who not only restored the teaching of Marx on the revolutionary party by putting it into practice, but also innovated on the idea and adapted it to the age of imperialism, the age of the domination of finance capital and the subsequent rise of bureaucratism and militarism in every country in the world. The few places where Marx and Engels had deemed that a peaceful transition to socialism was possible, owing to their lack of militarism, had now developed vast armies and police forces. The need for a revolutionary organization had now become universal.
This revolutionary organization has to be accessible enough for it to lead the struggles of the working class, so it cannot be completely conspiratorial and clandestine, but it must also have the capacity to perform clandestine work, and even go completely underground, in the face of repression. Such an organization must have unity of action and maintain a level of discipline bordering on military discipline to effectively lead the working class and thwart the political police. It must be selective of its members and only accept those members that have demonstrated that they are worthy of the title of communist, of a stalwart fighter for the working class. The member must accept the party programme, pay regular dues, and belong to a Party organization. They must be put under the discipline of the Party through the system of democratic centralism, which dictates how the party members and organizations relate to one another.
For democratic centralism to be effectively implemented, it must be based on conscious, voluntary adherence to Party discipline. For this reason, the process of recruiting and admitting new members must ensure the recruitment of only those members that are willing and able to participate in this kind of disciplined organization. For this reason, admission of new members to the Party should happen through the local Party organizations. It is based on the recommendation of two Party members and voted on at the general meeting of the local organization. Once admitted, they must uphold the program, statutes, pay regular dues, and participate actively in their local Party organization.
This form of admitting members, then holding them to a strict standard of discipline, combines the highest level of flexibility and autonomy in the lower party organizations while still maintaining organizational discipline across the whole Party. This discipline is necessarily voluntary and conscious discipline, since membership in the Party is voluntary. Hence, discipline cannot be imposed by the party center on pain of punishment alone, but must stem from discussions and decisions of the party members in the base organizations whenever possible. If a decision must be made by a higher body without consulting the lower bodies, then the members in the higher body must make every effort that the wider membership understands why the decision was made, so they can truly make the directive their own and carry it out enthusiastically. However, once a decision is made, any discussion or criticism that could jeopardize the Party’s unity in action ceases and anyone that fails to carry out the decision is breaching party discipline and should be criticized so that they may correct this. This does not preclude all discussion or criticism on a decision once it is made, only that it cannot be raised in such a way that would make the Party work ineffectively, for instance, if the Party decides to take part in elections, criticizing the timeliness of the decision would be inappropriate until after the elections have been completed. If through criticism and subsequent discussion the problem continues, then disciplinary charges must be taken, otherwise discipline will only be an empty word.
As a result of this need for discipline, factions are incompatible with the communist party. A party cannot act with unity if multiple competing “centers” within it try to gain an advantage over the other. This weakens the ability of the party to lead the struggles, discredits the party in the eyes of the workers, and provides ripe grounds for infiltrators and informants to gain sensitive information and cause havoc within the party. In stark contrast, the social democratic parties and organizations relish in their ideological eclecticism and internal rivalries between competing factions, seeing them as a source of strength owing to their adherence to a liberal, pluralist view of ideology. For this reason, they are paralyzed by indecision and a lack of a clear strategy – their conventions are filled with unprincipled intrigue and diplomacy, seeming more like a bourgeois legislature than the conventions of a revolutionary organization.
Without this disciplined party structure, the Great October Socialist Revolution would not have been possible.
3. A New Communist Party is Necessary
The absence of a communist party removes the possibility of revolution. Currently, there is no active revolutionary party in the United States. Over the past century, the communist movement in the USA has become characterized by opportunism and various eclectic strands, losing much of its revolutionary fervor. Today’s communists face a situation where numerous parties claiming to be revolutionary are actually influenced by bourgeois ideology and organized in a social democratic manner. These organizations have rejected Marxism-Leninism in both words and actions. They tail the labor movement without taking a leading role in economic struggles. They adopt revisionist positions that confuse the working class and prevent the development of a revolutionary strategy. They have abandoned the path of revolution and opted for mere reform, resulting in declining relevance or ineffectiveness. None of the existing organizations are capable, let alone willing, to assume the vanguard role.
The United States urgently needs a new communist party that is built on revolutionary principles, guided by Marxist-Leninist ideology, and consciously focused on achieving revolution and seizing state power. While building such a party is a daunting task, its importance cannot be underestimated. The victory of the Socialist Revolution is at stake. The possibility of escalating conflicts between nuclear-armed imperialist powers coupled with climate change are the results of the capitalist system which threaten all of humanity. The urgency of our mission, the creation of a new communist party, is of utmost significance for the international communist movement.
4. Critiques of the Party
Following the counter-revolution in the USSR and states of socialist construction, arguments against the necessity of a party gained credibility among workers. Communist parties experienced a decline in membership, transformed into parliamentary parties, or disbanded entirely. However, over the years, these arguments have lost much of their authority. The experience of struggles has revealed that spontaneous actions by workers alone are insufficient to dismantle capitalism. Loose federations of local organizations or mass parties lacking discipline are also inadequate. None of these organizational forms can effectively confront the capitalist class. Only a communist party, grounded in Marxism-Leninism and organized based on the principles of democratic centralism, with strong connections to the working class through its base organizations in workplaces, can truly lead a revolution to victory. Nonetheless, we should challenge the common criticisms against the communist party, as they still hold sway over some less progressive workers.
One argument suggests that the party is an external structure imposing its will on the working class, manipulating workers to serve its own interests. This criticism stems from the failure of communist parties to maintain strong ties with the working class, resulting in a general lack of understanding about the principles of democratic centralism. Instead, people are often exposed to a distorted image of the communist party portrayed by the bourgeois media and academia. This image depicts a party where decisions solely emanate from its leadership, which the rank-and-file unquestioningly follow and impose on the masses of workers. Not only does this misrepresent how communist parties actually function, as such a structure would contradict democratic centralism and hinder the party’s ability to lead a successful revolution, but it mirrors the functioning of bourgeois parties.
Another common criticism of the communist party is that it is a rigid organization where conformity of thought and action is required. This criticism can be addressed by quoting Lenin in One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, where he characterizes the “Russian nihilist” and their aristocratic anarchism:
He thinks of the Party organization as a monstrous ‘factory’; he regards the subordination of the part to the whole and of the minority to the majority of ‘serfdom’…, division of labor under the direction of a center evokes from him a tragi-comical outcry against people being transformed into ‘wheels and cogs’…, mention of the organizational rules of the Party calls forth a contemptuous grimace and the disdainful… remark that one could very well dispense with rules altogether.
This criticism stems from individuals who resist party discipline. They believe it is beneath them to abide by decisions they disagree with if they lose a vote. They unfairly depict party discipline from a one-sided perspective. It is true that party decisions must be implemented without question once they are made. However, such decisions are reached through extensive discussions and debate. If the party leadership were to make careless decisions, impose them without proper discussion, or misuse their authority, they would lose the trust of the rank-and-file members. In turn, these members would not vote for those leaders in the next congress or convention where new leaders are elected for that committee. Additionally, all members have the right to raise charges against any other member, including those in leadership positions. This ensures that misconduct by leaders can be addressed between elections through disciplinary measures such as censure, removal from leadership positions, and even expulsion. The communist party represents the highest form of proletarian democracy as it remains accountable solely to its rank-and-file through the party’s base organizations.
III. Party Base Organizations and Their Role in the Struggle
1. What is a Party Base Organization?
A communist party cannot perform its role as the leading vanguard in the proletarian revolution if it lacks the structure and social composition necessary to fulfill its historical task. Regarding structure, the experience of revolutionary movements in the previous two centuries provides a wealth of knowledge and insight into the methods and principles for structuring a revolutionary communist party. An essential component of the party structure that evolved through revolutionary practice is the Party Base Organization. The Party Base Organization (PBO) is the foundational organizational unit of the communist party. PBOs are where the bulk of Party work is carried out. They are where the task of organizing the working class, raising their political consciousness, growing the party ranks, and leading the daily struggle of the working masses on the political, economic, and ideological front take place. For the work of the party to fulfill its revolutionary aims, it is of paramount importance that PBOs be created in workplaces. A network of PBOs, by and large, workplace cells, serve as the peripheral nervous system of the party, providing the ties to the working class needed to lead the proletarian struggle on a mass scale while also embedding the party and its members within the working class.
The proletariat is the revolutionary class under capitalism; it is the class with a material interest in its own emancipation through the dismantling of the political, economic, and social structures of capitalism. To accomplish this, a directed assault on the opposing class must be organized and effectively led. The communist party, guided by the universal applicability of Marxism-Leninism, fulfills this leading role. However, what is most often overlooked and unaddressed by the social democratic organizations is the relationship between the party and the working class. There is a tendency for the communist movement to be divorced from the working class movement. PBOs, if instituted as the foundational structure of the Party, will serve as the connective tissue between the party and the working class and facilitate the ability of the party to lead the struggle. The workers will then be prepared to direct their blows with strength and accuracy. It is for this reason that, as mentioned previously, the PBOs must be created in workplaces – and especially in key areas of production such as logistics facilities, factories, and utility plants.
The theory of the vanguard party emphasizes the necessity of organizing the working class, which is realized through its practical application: the establishing of the workplace cell. The workplace is a crucial arena for political struggle as it is where capitalist domination is most evident. Within the workplace, workers can resist the capitalist class and draw strength from their victories. Without the presence of workplace cells, workers can face the dead ends of trade unionism, which is increasingly subject to bourgeois intervention. The bourgeoisie aims to bring unions under the control of the capitalist state or weaken unionization rates. The PBOs, as part of the communist party, reinforce workplace unions and provide a model for their organization.
Historical examples, such as the defeat of the 1918 German Revolution, the industrial strikes of 1919 in France, the miners’ strike of 1921 in Britain, and the factory occupations in Italy in 1920, highlight the consequences of failing to organize the working class at the workplace. To achieve revolutionary momentum, the working class must evolve into a mass movement while preserving its proletarian character. The network of PBOs in workplaces, as well as in mass workers’ and people’s organizations, serves to connect and unify these distinct struggles into a conscious class struggle under the leadership of the communist-led proletarian revolution. Without the coordination provided by PBOs, the working class movement may struggle to reach critical mass.
By being embedded within the working class itself, PBOs can and should take the initiative to participate in women’s, youth, cultural, and other mass organizations. This engagement allows the party to gain experience and strengthen its role as the vanguard of the powerful working class.
PBOs are the organizations that carry out the day-to-day dissemination of the educational and ideological work of the party. The central organ, the party’s publication, is an integral part of the daily work of the PBO and one of the principal methods of carrying out agitation and propaganda. PBOs are necessary to maintain a completely independent distribution network so that the Central Committee can put out a communication and ensure that it will reach the workers as quickly as possible, whether in legal or illegal conditions. This method of distribution has the added benefit of giving the Party information on how the workers are reacting to the message and what the mood of the moment is. This allows the Party to make informed decisions based on the sentiments of the working class broadly. On a practical level as well, the methods involved in distributing agitprop train the party members in methods of security and organization that are all vital skills of a revolutionary who is to command the confidence of the working class and by extension, strengthen the faith in the party to lead the revolutionary struggle.
In these ways, the PBOs can be seen as the backbone of the party that connects the entirety of the party and firmly roots it within the working class while also accomplishing the major tasks of fostering a mass movement and educating workers on the ideology of Marxism-Leninism upheld by the the Party. As explained, this can be achieved with the PBOs being created at the workplaces themselves, guaranteeing that the social composition of the party is largely proletarian and therefore guarded against bourgeoisie ideological decay that plagues the many communist organizations the world over.
2. PBOs and the Proletarian Struggle
Before the October Revolution, the scientific and historical proof of the validity of Marxism-Leninism had yet to be so thoroughly demonstrated. The experience of the Bolsheviks led to a qualitative leap in understanding organizational methods of structuring a communist party capable of leading a successful revolutionary struggle. Old forms of social democratic organization and traditions were exposed for their errors and misdirection – their capacity to lead a successful socialist revolution was decisively rebutted by historical experience.
The communist form of organization embodies the correct structure for leading the working class struggle, distinguishing itself from the social democratic form of organization. It is effective, useful, and grounded in its own ideological foundations. The social democratic organizations which lack PBOs are commonly built along geographical lines, states or cities in the US, and often referred to as chapters. Thus, social democratic organizations confine themselves to legislative and political struggles or, when they achieve success in economic struggles, they redirect them towards reformism. Without PBOs, the proletarian character is overshadowed and the ability to lead the working class to revolution is erased.
This contrast illustrates the revolutionary potential for PBOs to lead the daily struggles of the working class. Coupled with the discipline of democratic centralism (which is further guaranteed by a strong, PBO-based party structure), the party can lead with a degree of dynamism and efficiency that the bourgeoisie will scramble to respond to. Embedded in the workplaces, the PBOs will have immediate access to any information or developments in a given worksite. They can therefore respond quickly to rousing political scandals, workplace abuses, or spontaneous actions of the workers with a communist plan of action to elevate the level of consciousness and political scope of the workers’ struggle. The rank and file of the PBO, being party members, are all thoroughly educated in the principles of Marxism-Leninism and thus serve as leading cadres in a given struggle for the working class.
The pursuit of unions or improved contracts, including militant strikes, should not supersede the struggle for socialism. Doing so would veer into the realm of petty trade unionism, inherently inclined towards reformism. It does not strive for the liberation of the working class and popular strata, the construction of socialism-communism, or the eradication of exploitation of man-by-man. Instead, it focuses on securing “better terms” for the sale of labor power. It is important to acknowledge that organizing unions or advocating for improved contracts are important as a task in organizing the class-oriented union movement. However, it may not always be the most crucial task for communists, depending on the circumstances. For instance, calling for better contracts during revolutionary conditions would betray the cause of socialism, as the party should be rallying for revolution and the establishment of militant units.
These struggles, however, serve as valuable platforms where workers, guided by active party agitation, can recognize the necessity of their organization. They begin to grasp the power they hold as a class and understand how their economic struggles are interconnected with the political battle for socialism
Moving beyond only a workplace or industry, as the PBOs are not autonomous units but the disciplined building blocks of the party apparatus, the network in a given locality will be able to combine their leading position in the working class with their status as a party unit to bring workers from different industries to wage political struggles within their communities as well. The party can only lead these struggles if it is present in the workplaces and surrounding communities through the PBOs.
A communist party is neither a social club nor a media project but the advanced detachment of the working class that leads the proletariat in its struggle for the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism and the installation of the dictatorship of the proletariat. No amount of ideologically sound historical analysis or ideological writing that is detached from the daily struggle of the working masses can lead to the communist party earning its position as the vanguard. Rather, the ideological firmness and demonstrated ability to lead the workers’ struggles will achieve this monumental historical task. The organizational unit that safeguards the proletarian character of the party and embeds it within the working class itself to lead the struggles is the Party Base Organization. Through this nerve system, the network of PBOs in workplaces, the working class – led by the communist party – can wage class war on the capitalists and achieve victory.
IV. The Role of New Worker
1. The Leading Voice of the Communist Party
In What Is to Be Done? Lenin describes his strategy for uniting the disparate Marxist organizations of the Russian Empire into a single national Party through the publication of an all-Russian newspaper. Faced with a nearly identical situation today, we adopt this strategy in our own struggle to reconstitute the Communist Party in the US. At the same time, we must not restrict ourselves to an exclusively physical or exclusively web-based publication but rather utilize every available medium to produce and distribute our own newspaper, New Worker.
So what is this strategy? What is to be done? As Lenin explains, a news periodical’s writing, printing, and distribution, regardless of the scale, is a collective effort. Individuals brought together in such an effort naturally train themselves to work collectively, a skill which can be transferred to any other type of collective work. Thus, communists working together to produce a communist news outlet simultaneously learn how to work together to build a Party. Applied at a national level, all the scattered Marxist-Lenist groups and individuals in the country can thus be pulled into building an “all-US” Communist Party.
But the communist paper cannot simply be a news source, regurgitating information already available in a thousand other bourgeois sources. Our paper must be a tribune of the people, a weapon in the hands of the working class for the raising of class consciousness and the waging of class struggle. In preparing the working class for revolution, it is not sufficient for the Party to merely gain the support of the workers. We must raise their level of class consciousness to that of the communist vanguard. This is achieved through the publication of broad political exposures of the contradictions in the capitalist system, and connecting local and national issues to the capitalist system as a whole. Such exposures must be made not only for the issues of the working class specifically but also for those of its allies among the popular strata and the oppressed nations and peoples. In this way, the broadest possible support base will come to understand that all of their seemingly distinct problems are rooted in the same system, a system that can only be overthrown through a socialist revolution.
Moreover, the communist paper must also be a tool in the hands of the Party, for the achievement of organizational unity, in the struggle against the bourgeois state, and of ideological unity, in the struggle against opportunism within the communist movement. For the Party to uphold the principle of democratic centralism, the base organizations must have a forum for discussing and collectively determining the best course of action. The paper serves as this forum, providing an outlet for individuals and cells to share information and opinions for discussion and for the Party leadership to issue directives to the membership as a whole. With a central platform for discussing political struggles and party life, little room is left for opportunists and factionalists to distort the political or ideological lines of the Party outside of their own base organizations, as all such efforts would be plain for all to see.
Such is the importance of the communist paper to the Communist Party. For the CWPUSA, this paper is New Worker. Though this publication remains in its infancy, so long as the CWPUSA maintains its proletarian, Marxist-Leninist character, so too does the potential remain for it to become the leading voice for the communist movement in the United States.
V. The Struggle Against Opportunism
1. Combatting Opportunism
Marxism-Leninism is not a doctrine but a science. It must be developed according to the scientific methodology of dialectical and historical materialism through disciplined practice and ruthless criticism and self-criticism. However, there are people in the communist movement who claim to follow Marxism-Leninism, even extolling its scientific character, yet their understanding of Marxism-Leninism does not go deeper than catechisms, and where there is some level of deeper theoretical understanding it is applied one-sidedly. This strips our revolutionary theory of its power as a guide for communists in effective struggle through the “submerged rocks in the path” to revolution. In this way, it is reduced to an ossified, lifeless doctrine that leads only to failure. The result of this is the deviation of the communist movement away from revolution and toward stagnation and reformism, and thus the prolongation of the suffering of the working class and the popular strata. This is the end result of revisionism and opportunism, the manifestations of bourgeois ideology within the communist movement.
These are not new phenomena; they have been an issue in the communist movement since its inception. Marx and Engels themselves struggled against misunderstandings of their theories by critics and comrades alike, particularly the anarchists and the Lassalleans. Lenin and the Bolsheviks would continue this struggle in their polemic against the social-democratic parties of the Second International (SI) while also further developing Marxist theory in alignment with the new reality of imperialism. The correctness of the Bolsheviks, and the opportunism of the SI, can be seen in the victory of the Great October Revolution and in the betrayal of the revolution in the Western countries by the SI parties, which called on the workers to slaughter each other in an inter-imperialist war.
The struggle against revisionism and opportunism did not end there. Stalin carried it further in the period of socialist construction: against the left opposition who were dismayed by what they deemed “capitulation to capitalism” in the various treaties the new Soviet power had to agree to and theNew Economic Policy that was needed after the civil war; against the rightists, who sought to prolong the NEP and make concessions to the imperialists; and against all the other bourgeois agents within the Party, who strived for the restoration of capitalism and the destruction of the Soviet system. By identifying, isolating, and expelling these opportunist elements, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was able to achieve the unity and iron discipline necessary to confront and repel the fascist-imperialist onslaught, unleashing a new wave of revolutions for national liberation and socialism.
Despite the successes of the USSR, historical experience demonstrates that since the inception of the socialist state, it had to face several problems and complex conditions. The high ratio of peasants to proletarians within the Soviet Union throughout its history, coupled with the constant pressure of imperialist aggression, meant that the infiltration of opportunist elements and ideology into the Party, intentional or otherwise, was a persistent issue. A large part of the vanguard of the working class was lost in the civil war and the imperialist interventions. As a result, it was placed in a position to use sections of the old bureaucracy and bourgeois specialists in sectors of the economy, production, and administration. Overcoming this to establish and maintain the Soviet power was no easy task and required a consistent struggle against the forces of the old society.
With the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the production unit embodied the basic organization of power. Through the production unit, the working class developed discipline and organization, charting the path toward a change in social consciousness. Alongside the village and a series of other mass organizations, the production unit allowed for direct participation by the working class in the Soviets until 1936. The changes brought forth by the Constitution in 1936 replaced the production unit and established direct electoral representation through geographical electoral wards. This negatively impacted the class composition of higher state organs and negatively impacted the right of recall of delegates, which Lenin emphasized as a basic element of democracy in the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Coupled with these changes in the structures of power and workers’ control, reflection on the ideological and political struggle against the revisionist and opportunist expressions in the USSR showed that the communist party could not effectively confront the theory that commodity relations are one of the scientific laws of socialism. Strengthened after World War II, this theory was adopted in the 1950s and 1960s. The period towards the end of the Second World War also saw the elevation of the erroneous foreign policy of the USSR to a theoretical principle. Correspondingly, through the next three decades, the theory of peaceful coexistence led to a serious problem of non-class interpretation of war and peace. This line, developed to some extent at the 19th Congress of the CPSU and primarily at the 20th Congress, allowed the cultivation of utopian views that claimed it possible for imperialism to give up on war and military methods. The strategy of the “peaceful coexistence” between capitalism and socialism, and that of a “peaceful parliamentary transition” to socialism, took root not only in the CPSU but became a general strategy of the international communist movement. Underestimating the predatory nature of imperialism, these theories were a tailwind for Eurocommunism and opportunist views in general.
Following the 20th Congress of the CPSU, the accumulation of these elements, led by Khrushchev, was finally successful in capturing the leading positions in the Party. The right opportunist deviation prevailed, marking the turning point in favor of theoretical and political positions that supported the utilization of mechanisms of the market in socialist construction. The revolutionary character of the state was rejected with the elimination of the scientific law of the continuation of the class struggle during socialist construction. In the 1960s, policies were implemented in the USSR and the socialist bloc that weakened central planning, profit and competition was reinstated as evaluation tools for production units, the gradual transformation of cooperatives into social ownership was abandoned, income differences between workers widened, and the income of executive positions was increased.
The prevalence of market perceptions resulted in the weakening of communist relations, where for the first time, in the 1970s, the Soviet economy faced stagnation. Furthermore, in 1977, the constitutional revisions replaced the dictatorship of the proletariat with a “state of the whole people”. The vanguard role of the working class as the bearer of communist relations was rejected. The root cause which led to the overthrow of socialism in the USSR and in the countries of Eastern Europe was the violations of the scientific laws of socialist construction. The results show the failure of positions that integrate socialism with the market and the failure of the CPSU to decisively deal with the opportunist views that consumed it and transformed it into a party of betrayal and counterrevolution. The historical experience of the USSR provides us with the opportunity to assess today’s experience, where, for example, in China so-called “market socialism” has led to the complete prevalence of capitalist relations.
Problems of strategy have also reflected the dangers of opportunism throughout the history of the international communist movement. Of particular importance is that of the United Front strategy, the policy of alliance with the social democrats against fascism had been elevated from a strategic retreat, in the face of a massive fascist war machine dead-set on destroying the heart of the revolution, to an ideological principle of class-collaborationism. This paved the way for formulating the failed “Popular Front” strategy, which expanded this coalition even further to include the liberal bourgeoisie. In this way, a great number of communist parties would be converted from revolutionary Marxism to various trends of social-democratic reformism, most notably Eurocommunism, but also Browderism, the brand of American-exceptionalist chauvinism, adopted by the Communist Party USA, which conceives of a reconcilable contradiction between the capitalists and the workers in the US. The result of all this was a general decline for the movement, culminating with the counterrevolution in the Soviet Union, the greatest defeat for socialism.
Despite all this, however, the international communist movement remains, albeit in a grave state. The socialist countries of Europe, Asia, and the Americas have all experienced the complete restoration of capitalism, or else are significantly far along in the restoration process. Only a handful of parties and organizations that accurately perceive this state of affairs have not been tricked into “picking sides” in the renewed inter-imperialist conflict which now threatens the survival of humanity. In the struggle for communism, the only “side” we pick is the side of the working class against the capitalists who would send the workers to kill each other over the control of markets. Those who recognize this now regroup themselves around the pole of Marxism-Leninism, against the whole capitalist class and the “free critics” of modern socialism, toward the reorganization of the communist struggle for revolution. This process of regrouping around the theory of Marxism-Leninism is by no means straightforward, with those who do understand the general state of affairs of the class struggle usually passing through various mistaken, discredited ideological positions before arriving at genuinely revolutionary Marxism. For this reason, we must act as catalysts in this process, accelerating it through the ideological struggle against opportunism and revisionism, with the understanding that without this intervention in the ideological struggle the working class movement will remain trapped in the morass of bourgeois ideology.
Communists must accept our mistakes, learn from them, and carry their lessons into the next revolutionary wave. We cannot relax the theoretical struggle for correct theory, against opportunism and revisionism, in the name of “leftist unity” or even of “Marxist unity.” If anything, we must double and triple our efforts on this front while also not relaxing the simultaneous struggle for the reorganization of the resurgent communist and labor movements. How do we do this? By collectively engaging with Marxist-Leninist theory, applying it in practice, synthesizing knowledge and experiences, and establishing a culture anchored in continuous development through criticism and self-criticism, we will cultivate a revolutionary worldview as communist cadres. In this, we must also develop the courage, as individuals, to call out any inconsistencies we see or disagreements we have, to expose and debate them collectively, and, once a decision has been reached, to cut out anyone who refuses to uphold the principle of democratic centralism, of democratic decision-making and unanimous action. This process must be repeated and replicated across every level of the Communist Party, from the cells to the congress, and beyond that into the organizations of the international communist movement. Only in this way can we develop the ironclad ideological unity necessary to lead the working class toward the final victory of the overthrow of capitalism.