Posts Tagged ‘CPUSA

08
Jun
12

Why I Vote

ImageElections in the US may be months away, but already political ads are saturating television, radio, and the papers. But for all the bumper stickers, slogans, t-shirts, and signs stuck in front lawns across the country, many Communists are taking up the cry of “Don’t Vote!“.

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This isn’t exactly a new attitude. People have been decrying elections ever since we first had them. And of course, this isn’t without good reason. When you’re asked once every four years to pick between two corrupt aristocrats maintaining virtually the same platform (platforms they’ll abandon the second they’re sworn in), voting seems like a pointless exercise that insults your intelligence and your values. This general disgust applies just as much- if not more- to the members of the far left, who recognize the current system masquerading as democracy as being, at its most competent, the “executive arm of Capitalism” and at its most corrupted, simply a parasitic organization.

ImageNow every once in a while, you will find Communists who ascribe to the whole concept of “Lesser-Evilism”, in other words, the idea that, despite being opposed to them on every key issue, we should vote for mainstream parties to keep other mainstream parties from winning. It’s the old threat offered to the working class election after election- “Vote Democrat or else the Republicans will win!”, “Vote Labor or else the Conservatives will win!”, you get the idea. And I’m guessing you know who I’m talking about, too.

ImageOf course, giving into this mentality entirely defeats the purpose of having a different opinion in the first place. You can assert all you want that the working class shall one day rise up and establish a truly free and equal society, but if you keep on voting Democrat, that’s what you are. And to those of you who might claim “Hey! We’re trying to bring them over to our side!“, I’ll believe that when they start voting for you, and not the other way around.

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Seriously comrades, let’s get things straight here…

So why, with all of this in mind, would I still choose to vote?
Because it works.

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Bear with me here…

Now am I saying voting is the solution? I am not. Like most Marxists, I disagree with Marx on this idea that Socialism will ever be simply voted in. Besides, even if each and every politician, elected official, and appointed civic servant in the nation was a Communist, we still wouldn’t have Communism. Communism is, after all, a change in the people, not a change in the government.

And I’m further not trying to advocate what some Communists have dubbed “Class Collaboration”- that is, the workers joining forces with the ruling class to meet some mutually beneficial end (or rather, what the workers have been told will be mutually beneficial). The needs of the poor and the oppressed don’t exactly match up with the needs of the wealthy and powerful, and to try to cooperate will almost certainly result in the abandonment of the needs of the proletariat.

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“You want food, I want food- you cook for me and I’ll give you the scraps. We’re a team!”

What I’m talking about is simple: the attempt by Communists to defend the working class from exploitation, and to improve their condition, through any and all means available to us- including elections. Is that collaboration? Of course not, and to the few who might actually try to argue that it is, then I need only point out that by the same criteria, you buying food from a store that isn’t a co-op is class collaboration, as is buying food, watching anything on television, listening to music, and so on.

Granted, to progress anywhere in major elections (now more than ever), resources are needed that will probably be only available through actual collaboration. That said, local elections tend to be more free (the key word there being “more“) than elections on a federal level, and as such, certainly should be considered tools for Marxists. Allow me to offer the example of my brief time as a student representative at my college. I managed to push through some resolutions in solidarity with workers in South and Central America and South-East Asia, as well as prevent a committee I sat on from collaborating with an organization that gave exploitative corporations a free pass. I have to ask- how is a county election any different than this? Cannot a Communist run for office, and use his or her position to make similar decisions in favor of the poor and the working class? Indeed, there have been radical leftists elected to such local positions in the US. Again, I am not advocating elections as the solution, but rather as a tool available to the working class.

ImageEven now, I’m guessing there will be readers who are unconvinced- who are adamant that any attempt to use elections by Communists is at best a waste of time and resources and at worst a betrayal of the movement. I am of course willing to hear your side of things, but I just have to ask- is the whole “Don’t Vote” argument really just a facade for apathy? Is all the cynicism really just in place to give us all an excuse for hiding behind academia and whittling our time away in pointless analysis and retrospection?

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Do we rail against one action to make us feel better about our inaction?

It’s just something to consider. As for me, I will continue to advocate elections as a means of helping the workers in their struggle for freedom and equality. If nothing else- if nothing at all else is accomplished by doing so, we may perhaps take comfort in this:

ImageWe still get some cool pins out of it.

25
Jun
11

Joining the Party: Revolutionary Communist Party USA (Part III)

To be perfectly honest, I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to write about the RCPUSA. The party’s history, its ideological background, its principals, its goals- there’s a lot of ground to cover.

Let me try to start by giving you a quick look at the party’s history. The party was formed in 1975, in the wake of the anti-war, anti-establishment, and counter-cultural movements of the 60s and early 70s. A number of leftist and collectivist groups merged, forming the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. While very much a local movement, the party has managed to survive to this present day (not something one can say about most leftist parties).

Now for ideology, where things get tricky. You see, I’m a Trotskyist. The RCPUSA is Maoist. In general, Maoists hate Trotskyists with a passion. Trotskyists aren’t exactly wild about Maoists either. Nevertheless, I’ll try to do my best to give an accurate picture of what Maoists believe, offering alongside it some notes on what Trotskyists believe- so if nothing else, you’ll at least know where I’m coming from.

  • Maoists call themselves “Third Worldist”, that is, they believe that (as many on the left do) that the people of the third world are key in the fight against Capitalism. At first glance, that might look fairly standard- it’d be well nigh impossible to find a Communist who doesn’t believe the third world is key to the fight against Capitalism. However, some Maoists take things a step further, arguing that the struggle in the third world is the only battleground that Communists should be concerned with- that Communists in “developed” countries are actually Capitalist stooges and exploiters. Of course, considering that the party in question is the Revolutionary Communist Party USA– it’s doubtful that they hold this particular perspective. Still it’s important to know the belief is out there.
  • Stemming in part from the emphasis on Third Worldism, Maoists are nationalists– that is, they believe that Communism can exist fully within the confines of a border, that the state can coexist (nay, must) coexist with Communism, and that the nation must resist foreign imperialism at any cost. Trotskyists, on the other hand, are internationalists– that is, we believe that Communism cannot exist in a vacuum (no coexistence with Capitalism- ever), that the state cannot coexist with Communism, and that while imperialism should be resisted, it should not be resisted at the expense of the freedoms of the people of that nation. For example, during Iran’s “Green Revolution”, Maoists sided with Ahmadinejad, claiming he would protect Iran from Western imperialism and Trotskyists sided with the rebels, claiming that democracy must be maintained.

Now with all those differences, why not write off the RCPUSA right now? Well, as much as I am a Trotskyist, I’d like to imagine that I’m also a pragmatist. While I’m not going to drop my views, I’m not going to let them stand in the way of me working with people who I disagree with in order to, let’s say, fight for a union, or protest the murder of Oscar Grant, or advocate collectivism. So let’s get right down to the pros and cons.

 

Among the pros are:

  1. While not as old as the CPUSA, the RCPUSA certainly has been around long enough to merit some respect. Further, the RCPUSA has connections with such famous leftist groups as the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) and the Black Panther Party for Self Defense.
  2. Unlike the CPUSA, the RCPUSA endorses revolution as the only means of achieving Communism. This doesn’t mean that the RCPUSA holds that violence is the only answer to every problem, but rather, that militant action is still and option, and that the RCPUSA recognizes that the evils of Capitalism, exploitation, and authoritarianism aren’t simply going to go away.
  3. Again, unlike the CPUSA, the RCPUSA does not believe in compromise in any way shape or form. No voting for Democrats, no making concessions. Yes, this rigidity can be a problem, but it certainly doesn’t seem any worse than the extremely conciliatory track taken by the CPUSA.

And now for the cons:

  1. The RCPUSA requires members to reject any belief in religion or god. Now I’ve got plenty of criticisms about organized religion and various theologies, but there’s no way I can support the RCPUSA’s demand that members reject any and all beliefs that there might exist more than just the material world. First and foremost, I have a number of religious beliefs, and I don’t feel inclined to just throw them away because the party wants members to be “scientific” (that’s the justification they gave to me when I asked them about this). If nothing else, being told that I can’t believe in god because I must be “scientific” is both a deeply disturbing reflection on what the party believes to be scientific. The existence of god isn’t something that can be proven or disprove- being told to reject the existence of god is just as unscientific as being told to accept the existence of god And beyond the seem logical issues, there’s application. How dare the party attempt to dictate the person thoughts and opinions of its members? Where does it end? Doesn’t every person have the right to make conclusions about the state of the universe based on his own experiences and studies? This tiff I have with the RCPUSA is alone enough for me to write it off my list, but there still so much more to cover…
  2. There’s a strong possibility the RCPUSA is a pseudo-Communist organization, that is, while calling themselves Marxists, their actual ideology is contrary to Marxism. For example, while the RCPUSA spends a lot of time criticizing democracy. Now it’s fairly normal for Communists to criticize “democracy” in a Capitalist society, but the RCPUSA spends so much time lambasting it, one begins to wonder whether they’re against democracy entirely. After the fall of Capitalism, Communists believe that there will exists a “dictatorship of the proletariat”, that is, “true democracy” or “pure democracy”, untainted by the class system, will emerge. However, this term “dictatorship of the proletariat” has often been misused by pseudo-Communists to justify totalitarian regimes, such as the USSR and North Korea. While the RCPUSA never explicitly state “we’re against the very concept of democracy” or “we believe in authoritarianism”, there’s enough skirting of the issue to make me nervous. I’ve watched a number of recordings of Bob Avakian, the RCPUSA’s leader, speak, and the general feeling I get is that he’s endorsing an open-minded, benevolent, dictatorship, in which the party control wields total control. If this is true, it would mean that RCPUSA is not only not Communist, but a straight up danger to the ideals of Marxism.
  3. I mentioned Bob Avakian, founder and leader of the RCPUSA. While he’s a good speaker, the guys is, to be perfectly blunt, creepy. Almost everything on the RCPUSA website is written either by him or about him. Just from a pragmatic standpoint, he’s so central to the RCPUSA, I’m not sure the organization will survive without him after he dies. Again, the whole party seems to really be a casual personality cult of this man who just happens to be a Communist (if he really is one).

Avakian

 

So the final verdict?

All in all the RCPUSA is a weird, small organization that might not even be Communist. What little- what very little- it has going for it is absolutely dwarfed by its disturbing policies, obsession with its leader, and its unbelievably backward demands concerning religion. The whole thing seems more like a bizarre recreation of the worst aspects of the USSR, only the USSR was less invasive.

 

So yeah, that’s a no.

23
Jun
11

Joining the Party: CPUSA (Part II)

I began my search for a party to join with the Communist Party of America (CPUSA). Founded back in 1919, it’s one of the oldest and most prominent leftist parties in the US, so starting here seemed as good as place as any.

Now I’ll admit, my own brand of Communism is fairly left-wing, even by Socialist standards; so why I’d start with the relatively mainstream-Marxist CPUSA might be a little confusing. You see, as much as I’d like to work alongside fellow radicals, the left is splintered enough as it is, and regardless of where we stand on certain issues, there are far too few of us to spend our time fighting each other when we ought to be collaborating. If there’s enough that the CPUSA has going for it, I’m more than willing to put my individual politics on hold to work for the greater good.

Now let’s look at the pros:

  1. The CPUSA is, as I mentioned above, one of the oldest leftist parties still active. It’s managed to weather McCarthyism, wars, internal strife, and rivalries with other parties. Durability like that has to count for something.
  2. The CPUSA is, compared to other leftist parties, pretty large- roughly 3,000 members in total.
  3. The CPUSA isn’t anti-religious (as some parties are). Regardless of what your stance is on religion or spirituality, you have to admit that people have the right to be believe, true or false, whatever they want to believe.
  4. The CPUSA has a long history of standing up for labor rights, racial equality, and feminism and gay rights.

And now the cons:

  1. The CPUSA has, at points throughout its history, been influenced by the former Soviet Union, rather than the American left and working class. It’s not good, but with the fall of the pseudo-Communist USSR, it might be forgivable.
  2. The CPUSA has, on multiple occasions, endorsed the Democrats as being “lesser evils”. Further, Sam Webb, leader of the CPUSA, has fully backed (again, on multiple occasions) Obama as being a “friend” and “advocate” of the people.
  3. The CPUSA entirely rejects violence, and asserts that working through the present system is the only acceptable means of securing change.
  4. The CPUSA, on the whole, is barely Communist. At best they might be Social Democrats, and at worst, run-of-the-mill liberals with delusions of radicalism. It’s a harsh judgment I know, but it has to be said.

So what are my conclusions?

While the CPUSA does have a lot going for it, all the good aspects are really negated by how tame the party is on the whole. As a Communist, I’m either laughed at or feared, and since that doesn’t look like it’s going to change, I’d really rather be laughed at/feared for doing something more than just writing letters to Monsanto’s- sorry- my political representatives. The things we’re up against are going to go away just by applying minimal political pressure- we’re facing people who wouldn’t think twice about benefiting from slave labor or bribing politicians. The CPUSA’s hippie-meets-bureaucrat philosophy just doesn’t seem like a realistic means of combating injustice. I’m not saying I won’t work with them if the opportunity arises, but I’m not going to dedicate time and energy to what’s essentially a compassionate lobby

30
Jun
09

Communism and Religion

A common stereotype of Communism is that it’s an Atheistic political system that advocates the brutal repression of religion. After all, in order to become a member of the Communist Party of China, one must renounce religion and in the former Soviet Union, religious institutions were heavily monitored to the point of being spied upon. Marx himself stated that religion was the “Opiate of the people”.

But is Communism actually irreconcilable with religion? One must remember that the Soviet Union was not a Communist country but a Socialist empire that masqueraded as a Communist democracy. Likewise, China is not an actually Communist but a combination of Socialism and brutal Capitalism. Communism is no more responsible for the actions of these countries than Jesus was for the Spanish Inquisition or Voltaire for the Reign of Terror. As for Marx, one must keep in mind that during Marx’s time, religion was actually used as a method for controlling the working class. Take the example of an early American Industrialist who “converted” his workers to Christianity in order to stop them from drinking alcohol and maximize their productivity.

This has led to one of the greatest controversies among Communists- the issue of religion. According to some, religion remains superstitious nonsense that holds people back. The chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party (USA), Robert Avakian, is the author of the book Away With All Gods!, in which he makes the argument that because of the rampant pain and suffering in the world, a kind and loving God cannot exist and that humanity is better off without religion. On the other hand, such groups as the Communist Party of the USA have attempt to recruit members of the religious community. In a recent article at the CPUSA website (linked here: http://www.cpusa.org/article/articleview/1050/1/27/), the head of the newly created Religion Commission, Tim Yeager, explains that “We want to reach out to religious people and communities, to find ways of improving our coalition work with them, and to welcome people of faith into the party…”.

So which view is the correct one? Does Robert Avakian’s Atheistic stance fit better with Communism, or does the CPUSA’s acceptance of religion mesh to a greater degree?

The answer is simple- we’re not sure. Who knows which view Marx would’ve sided with had he been presented the arguments. Who can say whether or not that decision would’ve been right? After all Marx was only human and fully capable of making all the errors humanity’s prone to. Either way, Marx is dead but Marxism goes on.

And of course, so does the controversy…