Please read the short essay, or just click the answers to these simple questions. You may need to *enable popups.
1. What is a political party? (Click on the icon of your choice)
A collection of people who think and act alike
A committee that provides leadership to a specific class
A committee of election experts
A broadminded group attempting to benefit all peoples
2. Why would serious activists join a political party?
To find someone wiser that they can follow
To increase their effectiveness
To find followers
To correct other people's errors
3. In which kind of activity would one expect to find Marxists?
Boosting a union struggle for better wages
Defending the rights of immigrant workers
Promoting a group's freedom of religion
Campaigning for a candidate or a cause
Organizing study groups
All of these
4. Which one of the activists described below might be a Marxist?
Joe always makes sure to let people know when they aren't on the right track
Mary can be counted on
Bill is clearly the brains, but isn't one of the foot soldiers
Susan will work hard sometimes, but never helps lead
5. How does a Marxist political party make its decisions?
It isn't necessary to make decisions, because they always come down from the top
Decisions are made outside the party
After reasonable discussion, a vote is taken
Everybody talks until every individual agrees
By democratic centralism, which means that the central group decides then tells everybody else their democratic duties
*If popups don't work when you click on the answers, you will probably get a yellow line across the top of your screen. Click on it and choose "temporarily enable popups."
The Necessity of the Communist Party
"In its struggle for power, the proletariat has no other weapon but organization..." --V.I. Lenin "One Step Forward, Two Steps Back" 1904
Serious activists have found it necessary to promote Communist Parties all over the world for over 150 years. During their lifetimes, Marx and Engels were devoted to the International Working Men's Association and its national affiliates. Communist Parties survive in spite of the most desperate efforts of capitalists to destroy them.
In previous modules, we have established that the working class is the only class capable of overcoming capitalism. To do so, it needs political leadership that works together toward the powerful unity of the working class and its allies. In the module on unions, we saw that unions are not capable of leading the broad working class. A working class political party is vital.
A political party provides leadership to a given class. In America, we usually see only the two major capitalist parties. They may pursue different alliances and different strategies in different situations, but neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have any intention of challenging the rule of the capitalist class.
We also see parties that come and go. They may be indifferent
to which class is in power, or they may limit themselves to certain reforms
without consciously challenging the capitalist class. Other short-lived parties
are sects that split off from a major party, just as small religious groups
separate from their mother church.
The party that consciously empowers workers is the Communist Party. In America, we add "USA" for additional clarity.
The capitalists who control our information sources have done such a thorough job of besmirching phrases like "working class," "unions," and "communist" that some newcomers suggest we change our name. But we are not trying to fool anybody. We want to be as clear as possible about just who we are and what we intend. Only through such clarity can we hope to unify the progressive forces.
A socialist society is a society of democratic cooperation and collective action. No party could achieve socialism through another type of organization. Although there may be plenty of hotheads in political action, Marxists do not believe that small groups or individuals can empower the working class.
Consequently, CPUSA is a party of democratic cooperation and collective action. Decisions at all levels are made by majority rule. Serious Marxists work to carry out the decisions made by the majority, even if they may have individually voted against them. Working together is fundamental.
CPUSA functions under a constitution, which is on-line at www.cpusa.org. At regular conventions, party members create a party program to help guide our activities. The current program is also on-line at the same site.
Individual activists who join the Communist Party greatly increase their effectiveness. They find co-thinkers that can help make the best decisions. They also find multi-talented activists who are willing to work together. Some activists feel that party membership is a tremendous personal relief from the constant pressures of the capitalist environment.
Because the capitalist-controlled culture and information sources have been so thorough in misleading us, it might be worthwhile to define a Communist Party in the negative sense.
Frederick Engels wrote, "In general, the official programme of a party is of less importance than what the party does." (Letter to A. Bebel. London, March 18-28, 1875)
A Communist Party is a party of action and purpose. The purpose is to promote the unity and strength of the working class and whatever members of other classes are willing to help. This would include basic activities to better our standard of living and to extend democracy. Communists may be found in virtually every sphere of progressive action. American Communists are particularly proud of our work in civil rights groups, unions, peace activities, and elections. The working class is not indifferent to any kind of political work, and neither are the Communists.
Unlike some lesser organizations, Communists do not introduce unnecessary divisions within the progressive movement. We try to listen more than we talk. Although we initiate some activities, we also help with activities initiated by others. We promote unity, not discord. When decisions are off course, we always try to "disagree without being disagreeable." Communists save our arguments for the capitalists.
For some background on CPUSA, check out Noel Rabinowitz's collection of interviews on YouTube.
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