June 14, 2024

Detroit Industry by Diego Rivera. A testament of the unity between the Mexican and US revolutionary struggle.

In December of 2023, comrades of the Communist Workers’ Platform USA attended a school held by the Communist Party of Mexico (PCM). At this party school, the comrades explored a range of crucial topics and burning questions for communists today, particularly those concerning the revolutionary movement in the United States. The school was structured mainly as a series of lectures interspersed with discussion periods and questions to the presenters.

We provide here a summary of the principal subjects discussed at the PCM school. These are neither comprehensive nor exhaustive accounts, but rather the general perspectives and insights explored by the comrades of all three organizations.

  1. Ideological Foundations of the Leninist Party

Three vital elements in the foundation of a Leninist Party are ideological fortification, revolutionary leadership, and the Marxist theory of knowledge.

By ideological fortification, we mean that a revolutionary party must be firmly rooted in Marxism-Leninism, the guiding ideology of the working class as the leading force in the socialist revolution. With dialectical materialism as its philosophical basis, Marxism-Leninism stands in total opposition to idealism, and bourgeois ideology. With this distinction in mind, any organization or ideological tendency that fails to center the working class as the revolutionary class is inherently non-revolutionary.

The Leninist worldview holds that societal transformation cannot occur spontaneously, but requires active guidance and direction by revolutionary leadership. Further, it recognizes that workers do not inherently possess revolutionary consciousness, the understanding of the necessity for socialism-communism. Rather, this consciousness is developed and concretized within the organizational and ideological framework of the Leninist Party. The party, as the subjective factor in the process of revolutionary transformation, serves as the cohesive and directing force, uniting advanced elements of the proletariat in a conscious struggle toward revolutionary ends.

The Leninist Party must operate from the understanding of the Marxist Theory of Knowledge, moving from observation to abstraction and back to observation in the development of an ever more advanced and concrete understanding of reality. This approach underscores the central idea that praxis, the integration of theory and practice, is the driving force behind the acquisition of knowledge. Additionally, the Leninist perspective on knowledge aligns with Lenin’s assertion in “Materialism and Empirio-Criticism” that knowledge is inherently historical.

Guided by these foundational principles, the Leninist Party seeks to establish a comprehensive and robust framework that propels the working class toward revolutionary objectives under conscious leadership. Communists must grasp the importance of these principles, or else the party has no chance of success.

  1. Women’s Emancipation

Using the Marxist-Leninist outlook, women’s oppression can be traced back through various historical phases in the development of class society. In the age of classless, primitive communism, women enjoyed equal social standing with men. However, the emergence of class divisions following the development of surplus brought about a significant shift in their economic position. This was due, first, to the social division of labor and, second, to the advent of private property relations. The transition was marked by the rise of patriarchal societies, shifting matrilineal inheritance to patrilineal systems facilitated by dowries. It is crucial to recognize this evolution of women’s oppression over time because acknowledging its origins opens the possibility of its eventual eradication, as it reveals clearly how this oppression is fundamentally based on the existence of class society.

Critically, the Marxist stance on women’s emancipation maintains that feminism, despite its pervasiveness, should be exposed as a bourgeois movement that primarily benefits women in the ruling class. The true liberation of women lies in the comprehensive transformation of societal structures, which can only be accomplished by a socialist society that actively demolishes class differences. This involves ending private property; integrating women fully into productive, social, and non-exploitative work; and recognizing the inseparable unity of the fight for socialist revolution and the struggle for women’s emancipation.

Communists, understanding their position in the broader struggle for socialism, must address women’s emancipation through mass organizations engaged in work focused on women’s issues. Further, communists must emphasize that patriarchy is not a distinct socio-economic system, but a social form of exploitation within capitalist society. Capitalism, rather than ending it, transforms and perpetuates the oppression of women, both through heightened violence and femicide as well as a disproportionate burden of domestic work. The call for the emancipation of women thus extends beyond isolated efforts and emphasizes the need for a societal overhaul only realizable through socialist construction.

  1. Organizational Principles of the Leninist Party

The organizational principles of the Leninist Party emerged from the historical development of the organized, international working-class movement, from its inception in the International Workingmen’s Association to its maturation in the Communist International.

The Russian Social Democratic Labor Party emerged under conditions of total repression, forcing it to grapple with fundamental questions about its structure and membership criteria. At the Second Congress of the RSDLP, a pivotal divide arose when the Mensheviks, led by Martov, advocated for mere acceptance of the program and statutes, while the Bolsheviks, under Lenin’s leadership, insisted on additional requirements like dues and active participation in a party organization.

This dichotomy laid the groundwork for the Party of a New Type—the Leninist Party—challenging the notion of a party composed primarily of individuals offering only their free time in favor of recognizing the unavoidable need for professional revolutionaries to be created. Building on this Bolshevik conception of the party, Lenin critiqued the RSDLP as consisting of mere “circles” rather than of organized and capable cadres, highlighting the importance of the Party’s ability to lead struggles effectively.

Integral to Leninist Party organization is the principle of democratic centralism, of democratic decision-making and unanimous action guaranteed by centralized leadership structures. Under democratic centralism, centralism must at times supersede democratic aspects, depending on the intensity of anti-communist repression. However, proletarian democracy is always upheld at Party Congress, through discussion and debate over internal party matters are kept out of public-facing party organs. In contrast to the opportunist formations, both of Lenin’s time and our own, the decisions of the majority are binding on all members within the Leninist Party. The erosion of the party’s leading centers is impermissible, and online meetings and decentralized archives are anathema.

The base of the Leninist Party is found in the cells—organizations of party militants, primarily within their workplaces, that serve as the lifeblood of the party through their regular, in-person meetings and actions. The Central Committee must regularly visit base organizations and is responsible for forming a cadre school.

The Leninist Party operates on the principle that the task of one is the task of all, with congressional documents holding supreme authority. The collective nature of the party is crucial, though it should not damper individual responsibility.

Equality amongst comrades must be upheld. While the Party can be considered in effect a revolutionary army, it cannot be governed by strict military discipline, but rather by conscious, communist party discipline. Military ranks have no place within the party, though decision-making hierarchies, as a feature of democratic centralism, must be maintained by all comrades at all levels of the party.

Although comrades may enter with varying levels of development, they are expected to go through the organic life of the Party. Preparedness for state repression, distribution of Party materials within and outside of workplaces, and the recognition of mass work as an important but secondary priority are all integral to the Party’s general approach to daily activities.

  1. Fascism

The Marxist Leninist approach to the phenomenon of fascism must critically examine its roots and manifestations in the interwar period from which it first arose. The Executive Committee of the Communist International’s definition of fascism as the “open, terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinist, and most imperialist elements of finance capital” proved ultimately to be a mischaracterization, erroneously detaching fascism from the broader capitalist system. This misunderstanding led to the ill-fated strategy of the Popular Front, of forming alliances with segments of the bourgeoisie perceived as antagonistic to fascism. The flaw in this approach became all too apparent following World War II, when erstwhile allies of the communists immediately turned against the revolutionaries, as was tragically the case in Greece and Italy.

Contrary to the Hoxhaist perspective, which sees fascism as an inevitable consequence of imperialism requiring a gradual process of “fascization,” the Marxist-Leninist analysis shows that fascism is not inevitable. This analysis is also distinct from that of Trotskyism, which, in general, posits that fascism arises from the military, as a force above classes. Rather, fascism, despite its open dictatorship, draws support from a mass base drawn primarily from the petite bourgeoisie, the backward elements of the working class, and the lumpenproletariat, which all stand against the revolutionary workers’ movement. The mere presence of state repression does not define fascism; the crucial element is the fusion of finance capital with this mass base. In other words, it is not until the bourgeoisie begins to finance and organize these various fascist groupings that fascism as a movement comes “knocking at the door.” However, the communists must be vigilant in analyzing the factors that play a role in the rise of fascism: revolutionary crises, mass discontent, the existence of a strong communist party, and so on.

It is also important to highlight the role of social democracy in the development of fascism. In addition to its historical role in paving the way for fascism, social democracy is also closely linked to fascism at the conceptual level, especially in the domain of class collaboration. An increase in social democratic ideas can become a weapon in the hands of fascists, demonstrating the need for the communists to consistently combat rather than appease the forces of social democracy. From this, there arises a great need to study the concept of social fascism, its modern applicability, and its connection to the general conclusions on the Popular Front strategy.

Historical missteps, such as the mislabeling of the Brüning government by the KPD and the misconceptions that gave rise to the Popular Front, underscore the need for a precise understanding of fascism. Fascism, lacking a coherent ideology, is viewed by Togliatti, for example, as eclectic, serving as an aesthetic façade over the ultimate form of bourgeois dictatorship, and as emerging in moments of acute capitalist crisis, when revolutionary conditions are imminent.

The Comintern’s adoption of the Popular Front strategy at the Seventh World Congress

 was a response to the rise of the Nazi Party, but over time it devolved into full-blown class collaborationism. The modern Marxist-Leninist position advocates instead for a decisive struggle against capitalism itself, rejecting alliances with liberals as a means to suppress fascism and emphasizing the path of proletarian revolution. Today, at a time when bourgeois reactionaries abound worldwide, it is imperative that communists fortify their ideological clarity and avoid the traps of ill-conceived “anti-fascist” fronts that, in reality, do nothing but cede ground and momentum to the bourgeois class as a whole, further forestalling the revolution.

  1. Socialist Construction and Counterrevolution

The Resolution on Socialism developed by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) following the victory of the counterrevolution in the Soviet Union, serves as a generalized analysis of the political-economic roots of this historic defeat. It is almost entirely limited to the USSR, emphasizing the need for similar studies regarding other former socialist states, such as those in China, Vietnam, Mongolia, and the Warsaw Pact countries. The study rejects the Bukharanite view that the Russian Empire lacked the social and material basis for socialist construction. Further, it opposes the notion that the victory of the counterrevolution was due solely to political formations like the one-party state or the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The study highlights that capitalist relations took time to re-emerge and reach a critical mass capable of generating a social base willing and able to overthrow the socialist system. The counterrevolution was the result of both political and economic decisions, particularly reforms initiated by the CPSU following the Stalin period. Discrediting traditional schemes, the analysis rejects the notion that outside imperialist pressure alone defeated the USSR, or, conversely, that inherent errors in the socialist system alone were responsible.

Despite the ultimate defeat of the USSR, the resolution recognizes its historical contributions to humanity, including the defeat of fascism, the aiding of national liberation movements in the era of decolonization, the establishment of the Eastern Bloc, and its role as an inspiration for working people worldwide. The study further emphasizes the importance of understanding socialist construction through the lens of Marxism-Leninism to avoid past errors and best explain to the workers how socialism will create a better world for their entire class.

A critical aspect of the resolution is the exploration of socialism as a nascent and inferior form of communism, wherein private property relations are not entirely abolished. It delves into the necessity of eliminating the market for labor power under socialism and the potential for capitalist relations to re-emerge if market exchanges occur outside the scope of the state’s central planning.

Contrary to the stance of the CPSU following the Twentieth Congress, the resolution argues that socialism is in fact reversible and that socialist construction is not a linear path. It acknowledges that tactical concessions in the transitional period may be acceptable, but only briefly. Mongolia, Afghanistan, and the Caucasus stand as testaments to the fact that societies may transform from feudal or pastoral relations to socialist ones without necessarily adopting capitalist policies.

The resolution further explores the relation of the law of value to the construction of socialism, concluding that the two have nothing to do with each other. Rather, it contends that value in socialist industry could only be distributed to workers, not as wages, but through the payment of a social product. The impact of commodity production for external trade and the production of consumer goods on central planning is examined, highlighting how market forces—originating in the kolkhozes and epitomized by the policies of perestroika—ultimately subverted the central-planning mechanisms in the USSR. The study also points to the technical limit faced by economists of the post-Stalin era in calculating all societal needs simultaneously, contributing to the challenges of socialist construction.

  1. Imperialism

Imperialism, as the highest stage of capitalism, follows the emergence and predominance of large banking capital, the export of capital, the merger of bank and industrial capital, the rise of monopolies, and the territorial redivision of the world amongst the imperialist powers. The monopolies, formed out of the process of industrialization, play a decisive role in the repartition of the world. Importantly, the export of capital is a key mechanism of imperialism, and the dividing up of the world does not necessarily require direct territorial or military control. In understanding imperialism, it is crucial for communists to pay special focus to their own “native” monopolies.

The concept goes beyond territorial dominance, and cannot be understood without grasping the uneven development of capitalism worldwide. Imperialism is now a generalized system, encompassing all countries in an imperialist hierarchy, so it is essential to recognize, for example, that the designation of a country as semi-feudal does not exclude its participation in the imperialist system. Its distinctive feature lies in the intricate web of dependence and interdependence between states.

In contrast to Kautsky’s notion of ultra-imperialism, where a single country or bloc might come to dominate all others, the reality of imperialism entails a complex network of relationships, power dynamics, and economic interconnections among various states. This understanding of imperialism as an integral aspect of capitalism emphasizes the need for communists to critically analyze the global economic structure and the roles played by monopolies and finance capital in shaping the unfolding of world events. Without crystal clarity on the issue of imperialism, Marxist-Leninists will not be able to effectively combat the opportunist trends that prevail today, practically all of which have misguided and deeply erroneous theoretical understandings of imperialism that, by and large, resuscitate Kautsky’s idea by applying it to the USA.

  1. History of the CPUSA

The history of the Communist Party USA is marked by the triumphs of a movement deeply rooted in the working-class and trade union struggles. Emerging from a split with the Socialist Party of America*, the CPUSA played the leading role in the US communist movement following its formation in 1919. In the face of the Great Depression, the party garnered support through unemployment committees and achieved the remarkable milestone of publishing the Daily Worker, the first communist daily to be printed in English.

The CPUSA actively engaged in the struggle for black liberation, preceding the civil rights movement by decades and confronting racial oppression against black Americans in deeply hostile conditions. 

During the fight against fascism in the 1930s, the party defended bourgeois democratic rights. However, the alliance between the US, UK, and USSR led the CPUSA to adopt erroneous positions, extending the Popular Front to a permanent policy of alliance with non-proletarian forces.

The late 1930s witnessed the CPUSA supporting the New Deal, de-emphasizing decisive class struggle, and ultimately dissolving itself under Browder’s leadership. Although the party was re-formed later, the blow had been dealt, and it never fully recuperated its proletarian base from the 1920s and 1930s. The second Red Scare in the late 1940s and early 1950s inflicted further damage on the already crippled CPUSA, while Khrushchev’s “Secret Speech” in 1956 caused major fractures within the party.

Gus Hall’s “Bill of Rights of Socialism” epitomized the party’s total ideological degeneration, and Angela Davis’ split in the 1990s with the “Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism” further reduced the party’s ranks following the fall of the USSR. The international communist movement, including the CPUSA, has faced a profound crisis since the 1991 counterrevolution.

As communists in the US, we inherit this legacy and must study the forces that enabled the  CPUSA to rise and then fall, particularly those responsible for its thorough ideological and organizational disintegration. The CPUSA has left a wealth of historical material. It is the responsibility of communists today to study this history critically and identify the lessons of success and failure.

  1. Opportunist Trends in the US

The present situation in the United States sees the unhindered predominance of various opportunist trends, namely anarchism, Trotskyism, and Maoism. It is of prime importance for the communist party to combat opportunism fervently, maintaining a strong ideological front that effectively criticizes and exposes the role of these currents as counterrevolutionary.

Within this opportunist landscape, the Democratic Socialists of America stand out numerically. Their organization, inheritors of a Trotskyist legacy, is defined by major, inescapable ideological errors: a total reliance on spontaneity, endemic economism, and a wholesale rejection of democratic centralism. The Party for Socialism and Liberation, while organized and militant, falls prey to many of the same mistakes as the DSA, despite advertising itself as a Marxist-Leninist organization. The Communist Party USA continues to hobble along like a zombie, having abandoned Marxism-Leninism many decades ago, with hardly a faint whisper of its former might. Additionally, the trend of “decolonization,” in the vein of J Sakai and H W Edwards, has gained significant traction in the student movement as a line that is not only thoroughly idealist but fundamentally anti-communist to its core.

The persistent recurrence of anarchism, despite its glaring ideological bankruptcy, remains a persistent challenge that must be checked. It is not enough to just criticize the anarchists based on the classics, or historical examples of anarchist collaboration with the bourgeois state. The role of the Marxist-Leninists is to synthesize the modern variants and expose their ideological roots to demonstrate their role as class enemies. Today, there is a need to develop a front against the theoretical center forming around the publication End Notes, which sees its greatest amount of downloads in the US. Additionally, we need to confront the popular ideas arising from the so-called Situationist Movement.

Some communists may feel an instinct to avoid the opportunists, to smugly dismiss their organizations and ideological stances as fatally flawed and therefore unworthy of being taken seriously. This is a dangerous mistake. If opportunism is left unchecked, these elements can and will occupy positions in trade unions and mass movements that the communists—the revolutionaries—must, as a matter of strategy, aim to dominate. Ceding ground to these opportunists on the ideological front greatly heightens the risk of losing ground on the organizational front.

We further underscore the need for vigilance and a strategic ideological offensive against all other opportunistic tendencies. The communists must not underestimate the organization and methods that these movements use to organize the masses. It is insufficient to only criticize these ideological currents as un-Marxist-Leninist, the ideological front must drill to the roots of these movements. It is a matter of utmost importance that the revolutionary party recognize opportunists, not merely as misguided Marxists, but as enemies of the revolutionary working-class movement. Allowing these trends to go unchallenged poses grave risks to the movement and the overarching goals of the communist party. Our work in the US, then, must center the ideological front as a cornerstone of our strategy.

A Message of Solidarity to Our Comrades in the PCM

Overall, our experience with the PCM school was an immense honor and a major contribution to our development as an organization. A striking aspect of the school was the time spent with the PCM comrades outside of lectures, as their comradely attitude and hospitality were exceedingly welcoming and friendly—stellar examples of the communist attitude that members of our organization should aim to embody. Their courtesy and care, from preparing meals every day to their conversational and considerate interactions with all comrades present, were exemplary.

We extend our profound, comradely gratitude to the comrades of the PCM for hosting the school, imparting vital lessons for our movement in the US, and for the revolutionary role they have played in the broader international communist movement. We, the Communist Workers’ Platform, express our unwavering solidarity with the Partido Comunista de México in our united struggle against the capitalist system.

The PCM stated, and the CWPUSA agreed, that holding these schools annually is now an objective for both of our organizations. It is vital that we participate in future schools and have more comrades participate, to nurture within our organization the sense of proletarian internationalism and communist spirit that must be developed on a wider scale in the US.

*Editors’ Note: The original post incorrectly said the Socialist Labor Party. This has been corrected.