Thursday, December 31, 2009

US Workers’ Special Responsibility: End US Imperialism

Despite its current decline (most strikingly evidenced by its decreasing percentage of the world’s total GDP) US imperialism is still the most dominant political and economic force on the planet. Weaker imperialist countries, like Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan are mere satellites in US imperialism’s orbit. The US has nearly 1000 military bases in over 100 countries and controls a large, hostile military bloc (NATO) that seeks to encircle and destroy Russia. Understanding US imperialism’s nature, history, current activities, and probable future shows the US left a way forward to victory.

Imperialism’s Nature

Lenin’s important classic, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, explains that modern imperialism is more than simply territorial expansion or gaining control of other countries’ governments/economies but also the final stage in the development of capitalism. He reveals that, “Imperialism emerged as the development and direct continuation of the fundamental attributes of capitalism in general.” And also that, “The fundamental economic factor in this process is the substitution of capitalist monopolies for capitalist free competition.” In sum, “imperialism is the monopoly stage of capitalism.”

Lenin also, briefly, discusses how the British Empire, exploiting the world as a global power in the 19th century, resulted in a section of the British proletariat becoming “bought off” by the bourgeoisie. The result was political domination by the era’s two bourgeois political parties (Liberal and Conservative). We can see a clear parallel between the 19th century British Empire’s influence on British workers and of 20th (and early 21st) century US imperialism on US workers.

However, as the British Empire started to decline in the 20th century, working-class political parties arose – the Labour and Communist parties. Clearly, the US left needs to be prepared to take full advantage of US imperialism’s decline (from its current position as the top imperialist power) in the 21st century. The rise and decline of major capitalist powers is something that tends to occur gradually and not very frequently, which makes this upcoming situation too critical to be squandered by US progressive forces.

Historical Background (1890s-Present)

US imperialism’s quest for control of the world’s markets, resources, and labor power has inevitably led it to act aggressively on the world stage. Studying the history of this endless aggression reveals the monopoly capitalist system’s truly moribund nature, because it is being kept alive by ‘devouring’ other countries. Understanding the extent of US imperialism’s heinous crimes against other countries also shows US workers why our class has a special responsibility to end this reactionary system.

By the 1890s, US capitalism had reached its monopoly stage and began to compete with other imperialist powers for control of the world’s people and resources. The first significant event of which was the 1898 Spanish-American War. The “spoils” of that war included Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Philippines, and Guam. What followed, in the decades after, were numerous military interventions (mostly in Latin America) to establish US capitalism’s control.

World War I, the imperialist powers’ “Great War” to re-divide the world amongst themselves, brought US imperialism to Europe. Russia’s 1917 socialist revolution, which ultimately created the USSR, brought US invasion (many other imperialist countries also attacked young Soviet Russia, but all were ultimately expelled). World War I’s outcome increased the power of US imperialism and weakened British, French, and German imperialism.

World War II was not simply a war between imperialist rivals as World War I had been, but also a war between imperialism and the world’s first socialist country, the USSR. The Allied war effort also manifested itself as a worldwide popular struggle against fascism. Class conscious US workers realized the importance of defeating the fascist menace and were not simply fighting for “their” monopolists.

After World War II, US imperialism began a massive expansion as its imperialist rivals in the war (German, Italy, and Japan) had been conquered, while its imperialist allies in the war (Britain and France) were in decline. US imperialism increased its power in several ways, such as with the take over of capitalist Europe’s economies with the “Marshall Plan,” the establishment of a hostile military bloc (NATO) to dominate the continent, and the creation of various puppet regimes (e.g. West Germany and South Korea). US imperialism’s goal became the complete annihilation of socialism and global domination (likely taking the form of a fascist Earth).

The US capitalist class sought to achieve this goal by militarily encircling the USSR and brutally repressing national liberation movements in Europe and Japan’s former colonies. The latter was seen most dramatically in the Korean and Vietnam wars (that killed a combined 3-6 million people), and also notoriously brutal CIA-organized coups (that killed well over one million people), such as in Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Indonesia (1965), and Chile (1973). Another aspect included funding counter-revolutionary movements in socialist countries, such as in Hungary (1956), Czechoslovakia (1968), Afghanistan (beginning in the 1970s), and Nicaragua (1980s).

As the 1989-1991 Western-backed counter-revolutions stole political and economic power from workers in Central/Eastern Europe and parts of Asia, US imperialism began to make its move for complete global domination. The 1991 Gulf War signaled this new era’s beginning, which was followed up with the Western-orchestrated breakup of Yugoslavia, the expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe, and advances toward its long-term goal of conquering Russia and China. Between 500,000 and 1.5 million Iraqis were killed (mostly children) by US imperialism’s brutal sanctions on their country between 1991-2003. Madeleine Albright proudly stated that the deaths of 500,000 Iraqis were “worth it” (for US imperialism’s quest to control the planet). Thousands more Serbian civilians were murdered by Bill Clinton’s 1999 “humanitarian” terror-bombing campaign in Yugoslavia.

Current Events: “Democracy Promotion,” Color Coups, and War

Closely related to the Western propaganda about “humanitarian interventions” is what pro-imperialist hacks call “democracy promotion.” Washington’s much touted “democracy promotion” is nothing more than attempts to establish loyal client regimes that serve US imperialism’s economic and military interests. Before 1983, all of the “democracy promotion” was done either secretly via the CIA’s coups (e.g. Iran, Guatemala, Indonesia, Chile, etc.), or with open military force (e.g. Korea, Vietnam, etc.).

However, in 1983, Washington set up a number of sinister “non-governmental organizations” (organizations that were set up by the US government and have been continuously funded by it as well, making the “NGO” claim false). These were the “National Endowment for Democracy,” the “National Democratic Institute,” the “International Republican Institute,” and the “Solidarity Center.” They openly support US imperialism, while attempting to appear as independent “rights” organizations rather than simply another branch of the US government (which they actually are). Several years earlier, another related group (“Human Rights Watch”) was established by the right-wing billionaire George Soros.

All of these groups, ultimately, have the same objective: US global domination. They provide a support role to the US intelligence agencies and military. They were directly involved in all of the US-orchestrated “color revolutions” (color coups) in Yugoslavia (2000), Georgia (2003), Ukraine (2004), Kyrgyzstan (2005), the failed attempt in Belarus (2006), and the currently on-going attempt in Moldova (2009).

Recent history has shown that Washington’s color coups have had most success in countries that have already made conciliatory moves towards US imperialism (e.g. Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan) before these governments were replaced by new completely subservient puppet regimes. On the other hand, in a solidly anti-imperialist country (Belarus) a recent attempted color putsch was defeated in 2006. Similar color coup attempts have also been defeated in Iran, Myanmar, and Zimbabwe, which also have governments committed to staying out of US imperialism’s control.

It should also be kept in mind that “old fashioned” US-organized coups still occur (i.e. coups that are not as reliant on pseudo-“popular” protest movements). Examples are the defeated coup attempt in Venezuela (2002) and the most recent US-backed military take over of Honduras (2009). The US bourgeoisie also, obviously, still use outright invasion and occupation of countries to bring them under US monopoly capitalism’s control (if coup attempts prove to be unsuccessful), the most notable recent example being Iraq.

Arrogant, overconfident US imperialism tossed aside the classic Clausewitzian understanding of the ‘atmosphere of war’ when it drew up its plans for taking control of Iraq. Carl von Clausewitz’s ‘atmosphere of war’ is composed of danger, hardship, uncertainty, and chance (grouped together as ‘friction’). Neocon ideologues (representing the most reactionary and aggressive section of the US bourgeoisie), on the other hand, fantasized that they (as the leading faction of US imperialism) “create their own reality.” They mechanically assumed that US imperialism could easily defeat Iraq because of US numerical/technological advantages in addition to Iraq having been crippled by 12 years of sanctions.

Iraq’s strategy caught US imperialism by surprise. Rather than having its military be swiftly destroyed in massive conventional engagements, as happened in the previous Gulf War (1991), they heavily utilized a different mode of warfare (i.e. guerrilla or “asymmetrical”). Iraq’s most elite troops (the Republican Guard and the Fedayeen Saddam) “melted away” into their civilian population, initially allowing the illegal invasion to seize Baghdad and all of their country’s other major cities. Despite Bush’s claim of “mission accomplished,” when he dramatically landed on the USS Abraham Lincoln’s flight deck in May 2003, the fighting never ended.

By the summer of 2003, even the US capitalist media could not ignore the reality of an endless armed resistance movement in Iraq. The successes of Iraq’s resistance are all the more stunning when one looks at the details of its operating conditions. The fighting mostly occurs in what is now known as the “Sunni Triangle,” an area of central Iraq where most of the country’s 4-5 million Sunni Arabs live. In addition, this area is largely flat, open terrain, lacking vast jungles or mountains for fighters to use as cover. These two conditions (operation amongst a small population and in poor terrain for a guerrilla war) make Iraq’s successes all the more significant. Finally, there was no major (or minor) foreign power funding and organizing their resistance.

Presently, the Iraqi resistance is taking a strategic respite while preparing for future national liberation struggles. Their determined resistance smashed the Neocon fantasy of “Pax Americana” (i.e. global domination). In sum, their resistance contributed towards quickening the pace of the development of a multi-polar world. However, this came at a price, US imperialism’s illegal invasion and occupation is responsible for the deaths of over 1.3 million Iraqis.

Afghanistan, on the other hand, is different in almost every way from Iraq. Geographically it is a larger country and is mostly covered with rugged, mountainous terrain (perfect for sustaining guerrilla warfare). Demographically it has a larger population, with the largest ethnic group (Pashtuns) having kin across the porous border in Pakistan. The country is also filled with arms caches, leftovers from what US imperialism provided to CIA-organized medieval terrorists (like Osama bin Laden) in the 1970s-80s, which were intended to be used in terror attacks on Soviet peacekeepers and progressive Afghans (mostly civilians, like schoolteachers).

It should be noted that there was never a "Soviet invasion of Afghanistan." The progressive Afghan government invited Soviet troops. Even when Afghanistan was a monarchy, it had friendly, neighborly relations with the USSR. US imperialism was the aggressor and was trying to gain ground by organizing a puppet "jihad." US imperialism's goal in Afghanistan then was the same as it is now: to control Central Asia (using bases in that region to further encircle Russia and China).

US Progressive Forces’ Current Responsibilities

Naturally, the US left has a responsibility to make immediate anti-imperialist demands and build a mass movement pressuring for their enactment. While this already exists and some basic demands are already well known (i.e. withdrawing from Iraq/Afghanistan and ending unworkable military programs like “missile defense”), other issues require more attention from these broad movements as well. Demands particularly important are to dissolve NATO, close all US military bases outside of US territory, cut off government funding for sinister “democracy promotion” organizations, rein in the massive spy bureaucracies, and nationalize the arms industry (and connected industries). Finally, communists (the most ideologically advanced progressive forces) must always explain that only socialism (i.e. public ownership of the means of production and distribution, combined with proletarian political power) will permanently end US imperialism as a system.

The US left must also always be on guard to protect its ideological health from the nefarious assaults of pro-imperialist, anti-communist propagandists posing as “leftists” and “socialists.” Right-opportunist elements on “the left” notoriously offer support to imperialism, while parroting imperialist propaganda. Presently, pro-imperialism can be seen amongst those “leftists” who have been relatively silent about Iraq/Afghanistan, those who try to peddle imperialist “humanitarian intervention,” and generally try to dupe progressive forces into supporting US imperialism (often by helping the capitalist press demonize socialist and anti-imperialist countries). Exposing the moral bankruptcy of pro-imperialist “leftists” helps ideologically steel the working class.

US imperialism’s decline will open up new opportunities for class struggle and working-class political power in the US, created by the already noticeable decline/stagnation of most workers’ wages (due to decent paying jobs being sent overseas). Internationally, multi-polarity (rather than US domination) will allow for a much more favorable situation for the world’s socialist countries (e.g. Cuba and the DPRK), which will have an easier time playing the capitalist powers off against each other. For these reasons, the US left needs to recognize the importance of building an ideologically strong Marxist-Leninist party to be able to take full advantage of the desirable world situation that we are approaching.

Sources and Further Reading:

Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, V. I. Lenin

On War, Carl von Clausewitz

Imperialism Today, Gus Hall

Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, William Blum

To Kill a Nation: The Attack on Yugoslavia, Michael Parenti

Afghanistan - Washington's Secret War, Phillip Bonosky

Blackshirts and Reds: Rational Fascism and the Overthrow of Communism, Michael Parenti

Against Empire, Michael Parenti

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Obama: Obviously NOT “a Communist”

Believe it or not, some people in the US are so ignorant of political ideology that they actually believe that Barack Obama is “a Communist.” Simply studying the nature of Obama/the Democratic Party and understanding Marxism-Leninism shows how wrong the right-wing’s smear campaign against both are. A look at Obama’s positions and campaign contributors reveals that he is simply the latest CEO of US imperialism. Conversely, studying the classics of Marxism-Leninism shows that Communists are the vanguard of the working class.

Almost one year ago this blog explained, in Why Obama Won, that the main source of Obama’s campaign funding was from the capitalist class. We also warned that only a mass movement could put pressure on the Democratic Party’s capitalist political machine to pass any reforms that benefit the working class (e.g. universal health care or the Employee Free Choice Act). Events, or the lack of them, have proven that analysis to be correct.

While Obama’s presidency can be seen as a rejection of racism by a majority of the US electorate, he has not actually passed any legislation that benefits the working class. In addition, just because Obama is not an Evangelical fundamentalist, like Sarah Palin, does not make him “left-wing.” Anyone (including neo-liberals) can be socially liberal (e.g. pro-choice), regardless of their views on any other political question. Simply put, Obama is no progressive leader, he has mostly just continued Bush’s economic and foreign policies.

Even if Obama were a progressive leader that would implement a few reforms that benefit the working class he still would not be “a Communist.” Lenin explained, in Differences in the European Labor Movement, that the bourgeoisie "inevitably devises two systems of rule, two methods of fighting for its interests and of maintaining its domination." One is the "method of force, the method which rejects all concessions to the labor movement...the method of rejecting reforms." The "second is the method of ‘liberalism,’ of steps toward the development of political rights, towards reforms and concessions." For example, FDR passed such legislation (e.g. Social Security), but his primary goal was to save US capitalism. While Communists support all reforms that benefit the working class, being a Communist involves much more than merely supporting progressive legislation.

Communists work to entirely abolish the capitalist system and replace it with socialism. In socialist societies (e.g. the USSR, the GDR, Cuba, the DPRK, etc) the means of production and distribution (i.e. factories, warehouses, railways, communications, power plants, etc) are publicly owned by the workers’ state. Furthermore, socialist economies are organized via central planning. The working class (and its allies) are also organized as the ruling class and have a firm monopoly on political power, led by their communist party. In addition, all workers in socialist countries are organized into unions, giving them maximum influence and control over the functioning of their economy. Such societies can only come into existence as the result of socialist revolution, where the old system is negated and replaced by the new.

Obama, the US capitalist class’ current chief executive, clearly wants nothing of the sort. As Marx and Engels pointed out in The Communist Manifesto, “The executive of the modern [capitalist] State is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.” Obama’s economic policies, like Bush’s, only involve “bailing out” (i.e. throwing taxpayers’ dollars at) millionaires and billionaires. His “health care reform” only intends to force workers to buy a service (health insurance) from private companies, regardless if a “public option” is included for a small percentage of the population. He has shown no inclination that he wants to help working people.

Conspiracy theorists try to claim that just because Obama had a childhood friend (Frank Marshall Davis) that was a Communist Party member, then surely he must secretly be one as well. If a fervent Southern Baptist had a childhood friend or “mentor” that was a Mormon, would that automatically mean that he is actually a Mormon as well when all evidence points to the contrary? Obviously not. A rational person could not assume that “Obama is a Communist” simply because of some childhood relationship, when there is no evidence (i.e. Obama’s actual policies as an elected politician) to support such a belief. It should also be emphasized that anti-communism (which often manifests itself in conspiracy theories) is, as Gus Hall pointed out in Imperialism Today, "utilized by all anti-democratic, anti-labor, anti-Black, anti-intellectual forces within our land."

A similar claim is that just because Sam Webb (the current chair of the Communist Party USA) uncritically cheerleads for Obama, then surely Obama must be “a Communist.” What this is actually evidence of is that Sam Webb is a right-opportunist hack of the capitalist Democratic Party’s political machine. In fact, Webb has liquidated the CPUSA’s print newspaper and theoretical journal, and ultimately intends to liquidate the party itself, replacing it with a bland “think tank” type organization. One might find this hard to believe, but this has already happened before. During World War II, when many of the most ardent US Communists were off fighting fascism in the war, right-opportunist Communist Party chairman Earl Browder liquidated the party and replaced it with a non-partisan “think tank” (the “Communist Political Association”). Browder was ultimately defeated and expelled and the party was rebuilt. Sam Webb is clearly a Browder-type misleader (i.e. a social-democrat, not a Marxist-Leninist), so his views on Obama are irrelevant.

Communists struggle not just for progressive reforms, but for an entirely new type of society where the working class is organized as the ruling class (i.e. socialism). Communists work to overthrow capitalism, not to strengthen it or prolong its life span. For these reasons, Communists form the front ranks of the working class struggle for liberation from capitalist exploitation. Capitalist governments, like Obama’s, do not want that to happen.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Repudiating Ultra-Left Deception about Socialism

When reading discussions on the Internet about the Soviet Union, or other socialist countries, you might see the claim that they were “not really socialist” or that “socialism in one country is impossible.” The same individuals will likely try to tell you that Josef Stalin invented the concept of constructing socialism in a single country and that Lenin did not support it. Other ultra-leftists might even try to tell you that nationalization of the means of production and distribution is “not Marxist” and that Marx was actually “an anarchist!” Such absurd claims are debunked in this post with quotes directly from Marx, Engels, and Lenin.

V. I. Lenin, on numerous occasions, explained that it is possible to construct socialism in a single country:

"The development of capitalism proceeds extremely unevenly in different countries. It cannot be otherwise under commodity production. From this it follows irrefutably - that socialism cannot achieve victory simultaneously in all countries. It will achieve victory first in one or several countries, while the others will for some time remain bourgeois or pre-bourgeois." V. I. Lenin, The Military Programme of the Proletarian Revolution

“A United States of the World (not of Europe alone) is the state form of the unification and freedom of nations which we associate with socialism -- until the time when the complete victory of communism brings about the total disappearance of the state, including the democratic. As a separate slogan, however, the slogan of a United States of the World would hardly be a correct one, first, because it merges with socialism; second, because it may be wrongly interpreted to mean that the victory of socialism in a single country is impossible, and it may also create misconceptions as to the relations of such a country to the others.

Uneven economic and political development is an absolute law of capitalism. Hence, the victory of socialism is possible first in several or even in one capitalist country alone. After expropriating the capitalists and organizing their own socialist production, the victorious proletariat of that country will arise against the rest of the world -- the capitalist world -- attracting to its cause the oppressed classes of other countries, stirring uprisings in those countries against the capitalists, and in case of need using even armed force against the exploiting classes and their states. The political form of a society wherein the proletariat is victorious in overthrowing the bourgeoisie will be a democratic republic, which will more and more concentrate the forces of the proletariat of a given nation or nations, in the struggle against states that have not yet gone over to socialism. The abolition of classes is impossible without a dictatorship of the oppressed class, of the proletariat. A free union of nations in socialism is impossible without a more or less prolonged and stubborn struggle of the socialist republics against the backward states.”
V. I. Lenin, On the Slogan for a United States of Europe

After reading these two Lenin quotes it should now be clear that anyone saying, “Lenin didn’t believe in socialism in one country!” has obviously not read much Lenin!

Even more peculiar than the previous group are ideologically confused individuals who claim that “Marx was an anarchist.” They desperately need to study the classic works of Marx and Engels, which clearly explain that a proletarian state comes into existence once the proletariat has achieved political power. Marx said, in Critique of the Gotha Programme, that, "Between capitalist and communist society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat." In addition, The Communist Manifesto also outlines that public ownership of the means of production and distribution is an integral part of economic life then as well:

“The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i. e., of the proletariat organized as the ruling class; and to increase the total of productive forces as rapidly as possible.”

And further on, in points five through seven (bolded):

“Nevertheless in the most advanced countries, the following will be pretty generally applicable.

1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.

2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.

3. Abolition of all right of inheritance.

4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.

5. Centralization of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.

6. Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.

7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.

8. Equal liability of all to labor. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.

9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equable distribution of the population over the country.

10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children's factory labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc., etc.”

Now ask yourself what kind of society comes to mind after reading these quotes from The Communist Manifesto. An absolutely flawless “utopia” as immediately expected by ultra-leftists? Or does it much more so resemble a currently existing socialist country like Cuba? The answer should be obvious: the latter.

Studying and reflecting upon these quotes from the classics should not only make clear the nature of socialism but also why it is so important to defend the socialist revolutions and socialist states of the 20th and 21st centuries. Construction of the Soviet Union and other socialist states in the 20th century and the survival of some into the 21st (e.g. Cuba and the DPRK) has been the highest achievement of the working class political movement to date and of human societal development in general. We should always vigilantly defend these accomplishments from the attacks of anti-communist slander, regardless if they come from open rightists or ultra-left minions of the bourgeoisie.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

History of the Communist Party of the United States

The Communist Party USA becomes 90 years old later this year. Over the decades, the capitalist class (via their intelligentsia, mass media, and government) has heaped countless slanders upon the CPUSA. As a result, only a tiny percentage of the population knows any of the party’s true history. Communists knew that the US bourgeoisie would always view the party as the top domestic threat to their class-rule and consequently would ceaselessly try to slander, repress, and destroy it. William Z. Foster, in 1952, when the bourgeoisie were trying their hardest to destroy the party, wrote History of the Communist Party of the United States as a definitive history to set the record straight. The party’s true history bares no resemblance to the slanders of the bourgeoisie and their minions.

Foster explains that the party’s earliest origins were long before the actual date of its foundation in 1919. The first Marxists in the US were mostly German immigrants who came here after the defeat of the 1848 revolutions in Europe. Some, like Joseph Weydemeyer, (a comrade of Marx and Engels) would go on to play important roles in the struggle to abolish slavery. Marxists organized support for Abraham Lincoln and the newly established Republican Party in the critical 1860 election. Many, like Weydemeyer (a former artillery officer in the Prussian military), went on to fight in the Civil War. Marx also corresponded with Lincoln and called for the emancipation of slavery and the creation of African-American regiments to help defeat the Southern slaveocracy. The Union victory in the Civil War constituted a bourgeois democratic revolution and was lauded as a progressive war by Marx, Engels, and Lenin.

After the Civil War the US Marxists participated in a number of notable political organizations, including the First International (i.e. the International Workingmen’s Association) and the Socialist Labor Party. They also actively participated in building labor unions and helped organize major strikes, both of which the bourgeois regime tried to repress (often ruthlessly). The foundation of the Socialist Party of America (SPA) in 1900-1901 and later the Industrial Workers of the World (which was originally Marxist-led before being taken over by anarchists), solidified a political tendency (the left of the SPA) that would ultimately produce the Communist Party.

The struggle between the left and the right of the SPA led to the creation of the Communist Party by the left. The dispute took various forms over a number of issues. The right and “centrist” SPA leadership had failed to put into practice resolutions passed by the party condemning World War I. The right-wing leadership also wanted class collaboration rather than class struggle, supported bourgeois democracy rather than proletarian dictatorship, and wanted to affiliate with the right-opportunist Second International rather than the newly created Communist International. The SPA’s left-wing membership supported the October Revolution and Marxism-Leninism. SPA’s national internal elections of 1919 were easily won by the left, but the right-wing leadership of Hillquit and Berger refused to recognize the results and then expelled a majority of the SPA’s members in order to hang on to power.

Despite their expulsions, some of the left (like John Reed) did not want to give up on the SPA and tried to take their seats at the SPA convention on August 30, 1919 in Chicago. The right-wing leadership called in the police to expel them. The left walked out and on August 31, 1919 they formed the Communist Labor Party of America. On September 1, 1919 another left-wing ex-SPA group of Michigan language federations established the Communist Party of America. These two communist parties would ultimately merge into a single party.

The new parties immediately faced bourgeois repression and terror, the first significant event of which were the Palmer Raids in October of 1919. The US bourgeois government, which claimed to be “making the world safe for democracy” in World War I, resorted to using terroristic repression against US workers. An estimated 10,000 were arrested, many taken from their homes in the middle of the night, including most of the leaders of the two new Communist parties. Despite this bourgeois terror, the two parties were finally united in May of 1921 (a previous unity attempt in May of 1920 had proved unsuccessful). Providing the numerous different language federations, of mostly immigrants, an official sanctioned role was critical in achieving party unity.

The party, called the Workers Party of America (WPA) until 1925, sought to expand its work amongst the masses’ daily struggles. The WPA’s language federations helped in organizing immigrants, because the federations were composed of mostly immigrants who spoke their native languages and had publications written in them. The WPA was heavily involved in trade union organizing, despite bourgeois terror directed at organizers and striking workers. The WPA also participated in the Trade Union Educational League, which helped to build a left-progressive coalition within the trade unions.

In 1923-1924 there was a serious attempt at building a broad party of workers and farmers, which revolved around progressive US Senator Robert LaFollette and his independent candidacy for president in 1924. The Workers Party participated in this movement, which was ultimately destroyed by right-wing trade-union leaders that were married to the two-capitalist party system. The Workers Party also ran William Z. Foster for president in 1924, the first Communist US presidential candidate, who was on the ballot in 13 states and got 33,316 votes.

The Workers Party struggled against the intense racism and reactionary terror of the Jim Crow regime in the South. After studying the works of Lenin and Stalin on the national question, the WPA also recognized that the African-American people constitute an oppressed nationality (and should therefore have the right to self-determination), which was something that previous left-wing parties had not realized. Communists also sought to increase African-American memberships in trade unions and the WPA.

The party changed its name, in 1925, to the Workers (Communist) Party. In the mid-to-late-1920s a serious right-opportunist threat came in the form of Jay Lovestone. The essence of Lovestone’s right-opportunism was typical bourgeois “American exceptionalism.” Specifically, he argued that US capitalism was not heading towards a crisis. Ultimately, he unsuccessfully tried to split the party. The coming of the Great Depression in 1929 soon discredited his viewpoints. He also tried forming an alliance with Soviet right-opportunist and traitor, Nikolai Bukharin.

The real driving force of the 1930s decade began in late 1929, the Great Depression, the most significant capitalist economic crisis. Communists had seen the crisis coming, and had repudiated Lovestone’s bourgeois prosperity theories. The party was greatly involved in mass organizing efforts of workers (employed and unemployed) and in farmers’ struggles. A number of other struggles and organizing campaigns occurred as well, including of women, youth, and African-Americans. In 1930, the party changed its name to the Communist Party of the United States.

William Z. Foster ran as the Communist presidential candidate in the 1932 election. James W. Ford, an African-American and former Alabama steelworker, was the vice presidential candidate. The Communist presidential ticket appeared on the ballot in 40 states and won 102,991 votes (the party’s best presidential election result so far). The Democratic Party’s Franklin D. Roosevelt was also elected president in that election.

In the 1936 election, reactionaries rallied to defeat President Roosevelt with their Alfred Landon ticket. Landon had the overwhelming support of the bourgeois media and was a darling of the reactionary newspaper magnate, William Randolph Hearst. The Communist Party’s policy was of active support for Roosevelt’s fight against the most reactionary sections of big business. It also combated bourgeois democratic illusions amongst the workers, while trying to get the maximum possible benefit out of the New Deal reforms for the working class. The party could not give Roosevelt a full endorsement though, and ran Earl Browder for president and James W. Ford for vice president. The Communist presidential ticket was on the ballot in 34 states and won 80,181 votes.

The Committee for Industrial Organization (CIO), formed in 1935, was the greatest stride forward made by the US labor movement. The Communist Party played a key role in organizing that movement to establish industrial unions in the basic, unorganized industries. The strength of the left in the CIO during its first decade was the result of successful organizing work and militant fighting on the picket lines by Communists.

Despite these successes, the world’s growing fascist menace dramatically impacted the political situation. At the Communist International’s Seventh World Congress in 1935, a policy was instituted calling for a united front of all democratic elements (workers, peasants, intellectuals, small business people, Communists, and others) that were willing to make a common fight against fascism. Anti-fascist people’s front governments were elected to power in France and Spain.

The legally elected people’s front government of the Spanish Republic soon came under attack from Hilter and Mussolini. Beginning on July 17, 1936, their stooge, General Franco, led a revolt in Morocco. The US, Great Britain, and France took a fake “neutral” position, refusing to sell war supplies to the Spanish Republic. Meanwhile, Hitler and Mussolini were giving Franco vast amounts of troops, guns, tanks, and planes. In order to attempt to prevent Franco’s fascists from winning, the world’s Communist parties gave all possible assistance to the Spanish Republic, including troops.

The International Brigades were made up of Communists and other anti-fascist fighters from all over Europe, the Americas, and elsewhere. The CPUSA and the YCL organized the sending of around 3,000 soldiers, many of them non-party people, to fight for the republic. On January 6, 1937 the Abraham Lincoln Battalion was formed and shortly after that the George Washington Battalion was also formed. Later they were merged.

African-Americans, who made up several hundred of the US troops, were fully integrated into the fighting force (many became officers). This was in stark contrast to the Jim Crow era US Army of the time. The US brigade fought heroically in the Brunete offensive, at Jarama, Quinto, Belchite, Fuentes de Ebro, Tervel, Aragon, the Ebro offensive, and in many other battles. Of the 3,000 US volunteers, around 1,500 died. Other International battalions suffered equally heavy casualties. Despite this brave resistance, the fascists won (thanks to the Western arms embargo) and butchered countless people. Foster points out that US Communists should be proud of the active role that their party took in defense of the Spanish Republic and that it constituted the most glorious event in the entire life of the party.

The international communist movement was virtually alone in condemning the Munich sellout, where the leaders of Germany, Italy, Great Britain, and France (including the notorious British Conservative, Neville Chamberlain) got together and agreed that Germany should take over the Sudetenland, which ultimately meant all of Czechoslovakia. Just earlier that year Hitler’s Wehrmacht had taken over Austria. After Britain and France’s betrayal at Munich and their refusal to create a strong defensive alliance, the USSR and Germany in 1939 signed a non-aggression pact. British imperialism clearly had wanted Germany to attack the USSR. The pact ended up providing the USSR with 22 extra months to arm itself, which ultimately proved decisive in winning the war.

Meanwhile, the CPUSA organized against the so-called “isolationists” (made up of Republicans, right-wing Democrats, and smaller fascist groups) that opposed Roosevelt’s pro-British policy. These reactionaries were essentially pro-Hitler, and wanted a stalemate in Europe and a Nazi war against the USSR. The CPUSA simultaneously opposed Roosevelt’s pro-British position, while instead calling for international collective security as proposed by the USSR.

The party grew a lot during the pre-war years. Foster stated that, “Particularly helpful to the Party during these years were the books, Foundations of Leninism and History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, by Joseph Stalin and also the writings of Georgi Dimitrov.” The party had learned how to unite and lead the masses in their everyday struggles, a key part of expanding influence and ultimately, membership.

There were also attacks on the party by the reactionary Dies Committee in the pre-war years. One reactionary law was the 1940 Voorhis Act, which deprived the Communist Party of its right of international affiliation (a right enjoyed by many other organizations before then). The CPUSA dissolved affiliation with the Communist International to avoid prosecution by that law.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the US officially entered World War II. The CPUSA had already been supporting a world people’s war against fascism since the Nazi attack on the USSR on June 22, 1941. The party’s position was for full support for both the Soviet and British war efforts against Hitler. The party, in its December 7, 1941 statement declared, “The Communist Party pledges its loyalty, its devoted labor and the last drop of its blood in support of our country in this greatest of all crises that ever threatened its existence.” And also called for, “Everything for National Unity!” “Everything for victory over world-wide fascist slavery!” 15,000 Communists joined the armed services. Many became officers and many others were decorated for personal bravery, such as Robert Thompson, Alexander Suer, and Herman Boettcher who received Distinguished Service Crosses. Many never returned.

On the home front Communists were in the forefront of all work calculated to strengthen the national war effort. They were second to none in rallying the workers for all-out production. They were militant participants in all phases of civilian defense work. They also carried on a ceaseless battle against all “isolationists” and other reactionary compromisers and saboteurs of the war effort. There was also a long struggle for the US and Britain to open a second, Western front in France.

With so many men at the front, many women came forward to become leaders of the party, like Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a National Committee member. Party membership grew slowly during the war, but reached an all time high of around 80,000 in 1944 (including the 15,000 in the military). During this period the party also elected Peter Cacchione and Benjamin Davis to the New York City Council. However, Browder’s opportunist policies prevented the party from growing greater than it could have.

In the 1930s, Browder began to slowly drift away from Marxism-Leninism. He developed an abstract (class-neutral) conception of and support for “American democratic and revolutionary traditions,” which developed into support for bourgeois democracy. In addition, he promoted the concept of it having constant, evolutionary growth. One of his slogans was, “Communism is Twentieth Century Americanism.” He had deviated into reformist, social-democratic ideology.

During World War II Browder would deviate even further to the right. He mistakenly interpreted the Tehran agreement between Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin (which was a military agreement, setting the June 6, 1944 date for the opening of the Western front in France). He fancied that the post-war unity that the “Big Three” expressed wishes for at Tehran was an actual agreement and that post-war peace and co-operation were therefore guaranteed. He mistakenly assumed that US monopoly capitalism wanted peaceful coexistence and friendly competition with the USSR. He also imagined that US imperialism would tolerate people’s revolutions in Europe and collaborate with independence movements of colonial peoples. It goes without saying that all of post-World War II history dramatically proved him wrong.

Browder then developed a concept of a lasting post-war “national unity” in the US. He fantasized that there would be “very little discontent in labor’s ranks and very little strained relations between labor, government, and management.” He wanted World War II war production incentive wages and no-strike pledges carried over to the post-war era. His national unity concept also expected workers’ indefinite acceptance of the two-party electoral system.

After ideologically surrendering to the bourgeoisie, Browder no longer saw a need for the Communist Party. He proposed its dissolution and the reorganization of Communists into a non-partisan, educational institution, something that in the 21st century would probably be called a “think tank.” It would carry on “Marxist” work among the masses. Leninism, the Marxism of our present time, was entirely rejected by Browder. The heart of Browder’s opportunist ideas was American exceptionalism, the illusion that the US capitalist system is not subject to the laws of growth and decay that govern capitalism in other countries. His Teheran thesis virtually showed the US monopolists running the entire world, conceding Wall Street imperialist world hegemony. Another major element in Browder’s utopia was Keynesism. Browder’s utopia was the Keynesian illusion of a “progressive capitalism,” moving ahead in an evolutionary advance. This meant a complete rejection of workers’ revolutionary struggle for socialism.

Shortly after Browder had made his report on Tehran in early 1944, William Z. Foster, then national chairman of the party, came out totally against Browder’s opportunism in a letter to the National Committee. In order to avoid a split of the party, he confined his opposition to the National Committee at that time. The CPUSA was then dissolved in May 1944 and reconstituted into the Communist Political Association (CPA). Several months later Browder even tried to have the word “Communist” dropped from the name, but that proposal was defeated by one vote in the Political Committee. Earlier, in October 1943, the Young Communist League was also liquidated and turned into the “American Youth for Democracy”, an attempt to wipe out Marxist-Leninist work amongst youth. Browder’s revisionism seriously weakened the party in all areas of mass work (trade-unions, African-Americans, women, and youth). In 1944 he even publicly proposed that the Democrats and Republicans make a joint presidential ticket, but the CPA’s Political Committee rejected that foolish idea.

Uncertainty about Browder’s Tehran policy soon turned into opposition. Internationally, Jacques Duclos, secretary of the Communist Party of France, published an article that solidly denounced Browderism. The article played an important role in mobilizing already existing opposition to and critics of Browder. The CPA received a copy of Duclos’ article on May 20, 1945, which was immediately discussed in the Political Committee. Shortly after, Browder’s line was rejected by a two-thirds majority of the Committee, which soon became unanimous except for Browder. Browder refused to reject his ideologically bankrupt position and had to be suspended as general secretary. A secretariat of three (William Z. Foster, Eugene Dennis, and John Williamson) was created. A special convention was held in July 26-28, 1945. The convention thoroughly cleansed the party of Browderism and restored it to a solid Marxist-Leninist basis. The CPA was liquidated and the Communist Party was reconstituted. Foster was restored as national chairman. The new constitution clearly stated that the party based itself upon the principles of Marxism-Leninism. The reconstituted Communist Party rejected Browder’s post-war no-strike line, incentive wage, subservience to the two-party system, and “organized capitalism.” Browder then tried to build a revisionist factional grouping. However, he failed to split the party and in early 1946 he was expelled. Only a mere handful – his wife, his brother, his financial “angel”, and a few others – departed with him. He then attacked the party from the outside, but failed to gain a support for his absurd Tehran thesis.

After the end of the war the US bourgeoisie, with the reactionary Harry Truman as their leader, sought global domination. To achieve this, they tried their hardest to overthrow the world’s newly established people’s democracies in Europe and Asia. They rigged elections in France and Italy to prevent Communist parties from peacefully winning power. They supported reactionary terror in Greece (and ultimately countless other countries) to combat any opposition to US imperialism. They used the “Marshall Plan” to take control of Europe’s capitalist countries’ economies. They established puppet regimes in West Germany and South Korea. They constructed NATO, a hostile military bloc, to dominate Europe. They attacked Korea. They planned to use nuclear weapons against the USSR and the PRC. They set up a pro-imperialist, strikebreaking, anti-communist “International Confederation of Free Trade Unions” to split the international labor movement. They passed the fascist Taft-Hartley Act to weaken US unions. The Communist Party stood in firm opposition to the US bourgeoisie’s entire reactionary agenda for global domination.

For this reason, the bourgeoisie set out to ban and destroy the party. The US bourgeoisie learned from fascist dictators that the Communist Party is the greatest defender of democratic rights, so if the party’s democratic rights can be abolished, then the whole structure of the people’s liberties is undermined. The reactionary Truman government used J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, the McCarran Committee in the Senate, and the notorious “House Committee on Un-American Activities” to attack progressive forces. Many were arrested, including the leaders of the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee, for refusing to give the reactionary Un-American Committee the names of contributors and Spanish Republican refugees. The bogus charge was “contempt of Congress,” punished by six months to one year in prison, for simply refusing to state personal opinions or private partisan affiliations. In 1947 Eugene Dennis, general secretary of the Communist Party, refused to appear before the Un-American Committee on the grounds that it was illegal because it included the reactionary Rankin from Mississippi, who was “elected” in an election where African-Americans were not allowed to vote. Dennis was sent to serve one year in jail.

On July 20, 1948, twelve members of the National Board of the Communist Party were arrested for “violating” the “Alien Registration” law of 1946 and the “Smith Act.” Included were William Z. Foster, national chairman; Eugene Dennis, general secretary; Benjamin Davis, NYC councilman; and Gus Hall, chairman of the Ohio district. The so-called “trial” was not a trial in a civil or criminal sense, but a political attack by the government on the Communist Party. The “Smith Act,” under which the defendants were tried, clearly violates the US Constitution by abolishing the rights of free speech, free press, and free assembly. It is fascist thought-control legislation. It is also unconstitutional for being a bill of attainder, which is legislation directed against a specific group of persons. Making it akin to the hated Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. The jury was a hand picked group of middle and upper-class citizens. The judge, Harold R. Medina, was a millionaire landlord and corporate lawyer, red-baiter, and an organic part of the government’s trial offensive against the Communist Party. The accused were charged with “conspiracy to teach and advocate” the violent overthrow of the government, making this clearly a free speech/government thought-control case. The government’s “witnesses” were a predictable collection of stool pigeons, spies, and renegades. Eugene Dennis, in his summary speech to the jury clearly explained that, “We did not advocate the forcible overthrow of the United States government headed by President Truman. We did advocate its defeat at the polls in 1948.” The reactionary judge also bullied the defense attorneys and ultimately ended up sentencing them to jail for one to six months each for “contempt,” and also tried to disbar them from practicing their profession. Eleven of the defendants were sentenced (on October 14, 1949) to five years in prison and $10,000 fines. The twelfth defendant, Robert Thompson, a holder of the Distinguished Service Cross for bravery in the Pacific in World War II, was sentenced to three years.

On June 4, 1951 the US Supreme Court upheld this reactionary attack on the Bill of Rights, with dissenting votes from Justices Black and Douglas. Justice Black declared that the decision had so watered down the First Amendment, “the keystone of our government,” “that it amounts to little more than admonition to Congress.” Justice Douglas pointed out that the decision crippled free speech. Numerous others were arrested as a result later in 1951. The FBI stated that 43,000 Communists were being spied on and half a million “party supporters” would be thrown into concentration camps in case of war. Another part of this US march towards fascism was the McCarran Act, which claimed that “Communism” is an “international conspiracy” and that Communists are “foreign agents.” It also established the reactionary principle of guilt by association. The intent was to make certain political beliefs illegal. Pro-war liberals and Social Democrats supported these fascist laws. For example, Norman Thomas (a “Socialist”) publicly supported the proposal of concentration camps for Communists. The intent of those laws was more than just banning the Communist Party but also to smash any domestic opposition to US imperialism (i.e. to end dissent).

After reading this summary of Foster’s history of the CPUSA, it should be clear that studying critical periods of the party’s past not only reveals the absurdity of bourgeois anti-CPUSA propaganda, but also can be a guide on how to avoid or remedy certain types of ideological errors. The history of the crucial defeat of Browderism and the restoration of the party are more relevant now than ever. The CPUSA is currently controlled by another group of right-opportunists who also seek to liquidate the party much like Browder tried to do. Only the CPUSA’s membership and supporters can save it at this key moment. Strengthening of the CPUSA as a Marxist-Leninist party will allow for new, bright chapters of its history to be written.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Restrictive Barriers Keep US Progressive Forces Off Ballot

This blog strongly supports the attempts of progressive forces operating outside of the bourgeois Democratic Party's machine to run candidates for public office. In a 1988 analysis of the US political system, Soviet historians explained that, "The American two-(capitalist) party system," … "quite firmly neutralizes popular attempts to break free of the ruling class' political control." The bourgeois Democratic/Republican parties have created massive barriers with the specific intent of keeping the left off the ballot. Understanding the history, nature, and extent of the severity of these ballot-access laws is essential for getting left-wing candidates on the ballot.

The first wave of major restrictive barriers were passed into law between 1931-1951. Before then, ballot access was generally quite easy to achieve for smaller parties. Clearly, these barriers were originally intended to smash smaller parties that had electoral successes during the 1920s, 30s, and 40s (i.e. the Farmer-Labor, Progressive, Socialist, and Communist parties). In addition, the harshest laws were passed since 1969. The newer barriers targeted not just the old smaller parties, but also minor parties that developed in the 1960s' political upheavals and even more recent developments, like the Green Party.

Realizing the nature of laws that prevent minor party candidates from getting on the ballot requires looking at a number of different requirements that they demand of smaller parties. In nearly all cases, collecting the signatures of various numbers of registered voters is required and the number of signatures varies widely from state to state. Another important factor is the amount of time that is allowed for collecting the signatures, which again varies widely from state to state (with some states offering very little time for collecting them). Closely related is the question of who can collect the signatures (e.g. some states do not allow individuals from out-of-state to collect signatures). Finally, the Democratic and Republican election officials always try to find signatures to throw out (e.g. if petitioners misspell their names or write down an address that does not match the address on their voter registration file). Therefore, it is necessary for smaller parties and independent candidates to collect more signatures than what is demanded by the already large "minimum" requirement (usually around 25% more than the minimum is necessary to be safe).

Restrictive barriers have been challenged by judicial action, referendums, and by lobbying state legislators. Small victories have been achieved using these methods. However, there have also been significant setbacks, such as the Jenness v Fortson ruling, where the US Supreme Court upheld (9-0) a Georgia law requiring the collection of petitions from 5% of all registered voters in the state simply for new parties to get listed on the ballot. Ultimately, the only way to permanently remove these barriers is for smaller parties to take control of state governments, which is where ballot access restrictions are created.

Another factor is staying on the ballot once a party has gotten on. The laws have been intentionally written to prevent smaller parties from maintaining ballot access. For example, Arkansas requires that a party get 5% of the vote for governor in order to stay on the ballot. All other statewide offices do not count. In 2008, the Green Party candidate for US Senate polled over 20% of the statewide vote. Yet because the Greens did not get 5% of the vote for governor in 2006 they have to collect signatures all over again to get on the ballot for the 2010 elections.

A number of minor parties founded the Coalition for Free and Open Elections (COFOE) in 1985 to lobby against these restrictive barriers. COFOE publishes Ballot Access News (edited by Richard Winger), which is an excellent monthly newsletter on everything related to ballot access laws and smaller parties. The Communist Party USA was one of the founding members of COFOE. Simon Gerson, a CPUSA member, also served as one of its chairpersons. Gerson, in his book about Peter Cacchione, said that, "the (bourgeois) electoral system is a method intricately fashioned to exclude workers, Blacks, Puerto Ricans, and especially those who consciously oppose the capitalist system. The two old (capitalist) parties are as one in their opposition to Left and independent forces. They write the election laws to create obstacles to minority parties and rebels within the two old parties; they gerrymander district lines and commit polling place fraud, etc. The electoral process as practiced by the two old parties is a colossal fraud designed to facilitate exploitation of the mass of the people by the tiny cabals of monopoly capitalists."

Often the bourgeois media and bourgeois intellectuals say that the type of election system that the US uses (single member districts with plurality winners) creates a "two-party" system. While it is true that two parties do tend to dominate in such election systems, it is definitely not the case outside of the US that the exact same two capitalist parties win 99% of the seats in every election. For example, Canada has four parties represented in its national parliament and the United Kingdom has ten. Both of their bourgeois governments use single member districts with plurality winners, just like the US does. A strict two-capitalist-party monopoly is a phenomenon only found in the US, which is precisely the result of artificial barriers created to ensure that leftists (especially Communists) do not win elections.


Gerson, Simon W. Pete: The Story of Peter V. Cacchione, New York’s First Communist Councilman. New York: International Publishers. 1976.

Raskin, Jamin B. Overruling Democracy: The Supreme Court Versus the American People. New York: Routledge. 2003.

Soviet Historians. The US Two-Party System - Past and Present. Moscow: Progress Publishers. 1988.

Winger, Richard, ed. Ballot Access News. 1985-present.

Winger, Richard. “More Choice Please! Why U.S. Ballot Access Laws Are Discriminatory and How Independent Parties and Candidates Challenge Them.” Democracy’s Moment: Reforming the American Political System for the 21st Century. Ed. Ronald Hayduk and Kevin Mattson. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. 45-59. 2002.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Crackdown Ended New York City's Multi-Party System

New York City used proportional representation (PR) to elect its city council between 1936-1947. A number of other cities also used PR then as well. The type of PR system used was the single transferable vote (STV) with multi-member districts, which is different than the more commonly used party-list method. Voters would rank candidates in multi-member districts and after a process of elimination (based upon the voters' rankings) the top candidates in each district would then win seats.

Before PR, NYC's local government was essentially a one-party system, with the Democratic Party having a monopoly on political power. The introduction of this system created an opportunity for progressive forces independent of the Democratic Party's machine to elect candidates. Even the weak NYC Republican Party was able to win a more proportionate share of seats compared to the old system.

In the 1941 election Peter Cacchione became the first Communist Party member elected to the council. In the 1943 election he was reelected and another Party member, Ben Davis (an African-American representing Harlem), was elected as well. Davis explained his electoral work by saying, "I was also running on the Communist ticket. It was my duty and responsibility, as well as my privilege, to explain to the voters why I was running on that ticket, what the Communist Party stood for and why I was a member. If I couldn't trust the people, why should they trust me? I did not believe in hiding 'the light of Marxism-Leninism' under a bushel. It was necessary to point out that though I had backers of other parties in my corner, I nevertheless was a Communist whose program went much farther than the present election campaign; that I believe in socialism and would ever strive for its triumph at home." In the 1945 election, both Davis and Cacchione were reelected. The American Labor and Liberal parties also elected some of their members to the council as well.

When Peter Cacchione died in 1947, the bourgeois council refused to seat his Communist replacement, Si Gerson. Gerson would go on to become an important activist for the rights of smaller parties by serving as the chairperson of the Coalition for Free and Open Elections. The bourgeois council, showing its disdain for the voters' choice, expelled Ben Davis in 1949. Davis was also imprisoned for being a Communist during the 1950s period of fascist repression.

Fearful of opposition parties' victories at the polls, the US bourgeoisie, with their Democratic and Republican party-machines, were not about to allow electoral opposition to their monopoly on political power to exist, even at the local level. In 1947 they launched a campaign to abolish NYC's PR system. Despite PR's use by numerous other bourgeois republics, US bourgeois propaganda hysterically denounced it. The leader of the Tammany Hall political-machine, Frank J. Sampson, even called it a "Stalin Frankenstein." Multi-party election systems were condemned, while limiting the election process to only two parties (the Democrats and Republicans) was said to be the only way that “democracy” could exist.

Besides the leadership of both the bourgeois Democratic and Republican party-machines, the anti-PR forces also had the support of big bourgeois newspapers, like the New York Times. Naturally, their campaign also had more money as well, with $33,000 compared to only $4,013 for the pro-PR forces. These massive advantages would prove to be decisive.

However, opposition to their anti-democratic crusade did exist and not just from the Communist Party. The American Labor Party and Liberal Party, which also benefited from the system, were pro-PR as well. Minorities of the Democratic and Republican party-machine members were also pro-PR. Some, like Mayor William O’Dwyer, refused to take a position, despite intense pressure from his party to do so.

The final result was 923,186 anti-PR votes to 555,217 pro-PR votes (62.4 to 38.6%). Clearly, the anti-PR campaign’s strong support from the bourgeois Democratic/Republican party-machines, the big bourgeois newspapers, and lopsided advantages in funding bought their victory at the polls. The loss of PR ended NYC's multi-party system and restored single-party dominance. The US bourgeoisie's attempts at smashing small opposition parties at home, particularly the Communist Party USA, should always be pointed out when US imperialist propagandists try to lecture other countries on "democratic reforms" and "democracy."


Bone, Hugh A. and Belle Zeller. “The Repeal of P.R. in New York City--Ten Years in Retrospect.” American Political Science Review. Vol. 42, No. 6 (Dec., 1948), pp. 1127-1148.

Davis, Ben. Communist Councilman from Harlem: Autobiographical Notes Written in a Federal Penitentiary. New York: International Publishers. 1991.

Fishman, Joelle. “Si Gerson, 95, Journalist and Electoral Expert.” People's Weekly World, January 29, 2005.

Foster, William Z. History of the Communist Party of the United States. New York: International Publishers. 1952.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Visit the Gus Hall Action Club's Blog!

The Gus Hall Action Club's blog has a great selection of informative posts that explain Marxist-Leninist ideology and its use in real-life political work. They also have a number of posts that combat anti-Communist propaganda as well. Here are links to some of the best posts on their blog:

The Dictatorship of the Proletariat is the Crux of Marxism

The Lie of Soviet Anti-Semitism

Racism: Instrument of Capitalist Class Rule, Weapon of Big Business

What a Communist Party is Good For

Revisionism vs. the Vanguard Role of the Marxist-Leninist Party

Fight for the Employee Free Choice Act!

Read and Reread Marx, Engels, Lenin

Stalin: 'His Name Stands Alongside the Names of Marx, Engels and Lenin'

Note that the Gus Hall Action Club is a great Marxist-Leninist group in the state of Minnesota. Many other informative posts are also posted on their blog. Please share their weblink with your progressive and anti-imperialist friends!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Communist Party USA Readings

Below is a list of important texts written by Communist Party USA members and leaders, which are hosted by the excellent Marxism-Leninism Today website. Studying these readings deepens one's ideological understanding of the CPUSA and the struggle for a socialist USA. A deep understanding of scientific socialist ideology (Marxism-Leninism) is also the best defense against revisionism and other ideological errors. "Our confidence is firmly grounded in the world-liberating science of Marxism-Leninism." (Gus Hall, Peace Can Be Won!, 1951)

On the Question of Revisionism, by William Z. Foster

The New Political Reality: Analysis and Perspective, by Gus Hall

The Economic and Political Crisis in the USSR, by Victor Perlo

CPUSA's 1984 Party Program

Here are also a number of other texts by William Z. Foster and Gus Hall that are hosted on other websites:

Socialism USA, by Gus Hall

Toward Soviet America, by William Z. Foster

Bankruptcy of the American Labor Movement, by William Z. Foster

Strike Strategy, by William Z. Foster

Lenin and Stalin as Mass Leaders, by William Z. Foster

Russia in 1924, by William Z. Foster

Share these links with everyone who wants a socialist USA! Also check out this earlier blog post which has links to other important readings that are available on the Marxism-Leninism Today website.