The need for a new Marxist organization by the Minnesota Committee of Correspondence Our answer to the question "where do we go from here?" is that we commit ourselves to working for a socialist United States through an organization based on the ideological heritage stemming from the life work of Marx, Engels, and Lenin. This heritage includes the experiences accumulated in the struggles of working-class and nationally oppressed peoples and must be continually readapted creatively to the conditions of the present day. But it must neither abandon nor conceal its roots. Our country needs both a Marxist political organization and a broad left-progressive political coalition, but a priority for Marxists must be to organize themselves. Locally, many of us have broken with undemocratic past practices to form the Minnesota Committee of Correspondence. Our numbers are growing, with new members joining as Marxists committed to the struggle for socialism. A 'MARXIST' ORGANIZATION? n In what way would the activities of a Marxist organization differ from a broad-left socialist-oriented organization? The principal distinction between Marxists and non-Marxist socialists is the theoretical connection that Marxists make between the long-range goal of socialism and day-to-day political struggles. Marxists base political activity on theoretical understanding of (a) the political economy of capitalism, (b) the class character of the state, (c) the necessity of building alliances among all oppressed classes and strata against oppressive conditions, (d) the necessity of convincing the participants of these alliances that capitalism will continue to generate new and revive old forms of oppression and that only socialism will make possible lasting liberation, and (e) the key role that the working class must play in such alliances. Marxists place particular stress on the last point, since the transition from capitalism to socialism is by definition an end to the capitalist exploitation of wage labor. Workers must acquire the consciousness not only that the elimination of capitalism is a condition for ending their oppression, but that by participating in and giving leadership to people's alliances, they have the power to bring about the transition to socialism. Another important connection made by Marxists is that the international solidarity among capitalists will lead them to combine their forces to suppress people's movements whenever the control of the capitalist state is threatened. Consequently, Marxism has always been imbued with the spirit of the broadest possible internationalism among workers and oppressed peoples. The validity of a number of these principles is, of course, recognized today by many progressives who do not consider themselves Marxists. We should therefore consider some practical examples of the distinctive role of Marxists participating in people's movements. In Minneapolis-St. Paul, a Peace and Justice Coalition includes several dozen organizations addressing such issues as racism, sexism, homophobia, child-care, environment, peace, imperialism, and poverty in the community. The activities of such political coalitions, and generally of its individual organizations, are responses to the problems people face in daily life. These coalitions can bring forth concrete expressions of solidarity from a wide range of groups because experience has taught progressives about the interconnections among the various issues. In all cases, the concrete activities deal with demands for the solution of problems within the framework of the capitalist system. These struggles are basically spontaneous responses to problems rooted in the insatiable capitalist quest for profit, problems that people confront directly: loss of jobs through runaway plants, plant closings, and staff reductions; lack of child care and health insurance; chronic unemployment; high taxes; ghettoization of the cities; discrimination based on skin color and nationality, sex and sexual orientation; deterioration of the environment; crime; poverty; inadequate school budgets. People are thus moved into activity on the political and economic planes involving trade-union struggles, campaigns for adequate financing of social-welfare programs, demands for legislation outlawing all forms of discrimination, and the like. As we already noted, dealing with these problems is a never-ending struggle. Therefore these coalitions form, dissolve, and form again as one struggle after another becomes pressing. Many of those participating in such movements, often with great militancy, are aware that only socialism opens the way to the ultimate elimination of oppressive conditions. They do not, however, as Marxists do, unite their participation in these movements with the building of a socialist consciousness. Broad- based coalitions, by their nature, limit themselves to fighting for much-needed concrete reforms. Victories in such struggles are important, since every victory is a blow against the capitalist domination of our lives. A Marxist perspective, nevertheless, is needed for turning such victories into advances for the socialist cause. A socialist consciousness, in itself, is not enough. In those countries of western Europe where at times a socialist consciousness has embraced a majority of the working people (for example, when the Labor Party was in power in England), the leaders of the dominant socialist parties have been unwilling to lead a struggle for a revolutionary transfer of state power to the working people. Instead, they advocate the sharing of state power between the working class and the bourgeoisie and push for reforms within the capitalist system to alleviate in varying degrees the suffering caused by system-related problems of capitalist society. As long as the state is used to sustain the dominance of capitalist property relations, the sharing of power is a fiction. Marxists recognize the class nature of the state; non-Marxist socialists, even when they reject class collaborationist leaders and engage in militant class struggles, generally do not. As Marxists - that is, as revolutionary socialists - our constant focus must be on the path to socialism in the United States. While struggling for reforms under capitalism, we must continually argue for the socialist alternative and against stopping with the reformist alternative. A revolutionary upsurge occurs not because conditions are intolerable, but because the people comprehend that their conditions can be made better. Our immediate task, therefore, is to overcome the widespread feeling of powerlessness, to stimulate the conviction that people have the strength to change their lives. This is why Marxists engage in political activity, both in the electoral arena and through direct action (demonstrations, picket lines, sit-ins, boycotts) to achieve reforms, protect and extend civil rights, and oppose all forms of oppression. The working class is our central (but not only) focus because, as Marx noted, that class is the only class that, in liberating itself from capitalist exploitation, will liberate all of humanity. The struggle for socialism must be united with the struggle of all nonexploiting classes and strata against the conditions that oppress them. Therefore, Marxists see the struggle for democracy as inseparable from the struggle for socialism. A capitalist society does not remain stagnant. With great ingenuity, the capitalists continually extend the scope of exploitation and oppression. Our battle strategies must likewise undergo renewal through continual study so as not to get locked into antiquated forms of struggle. In his "Supplement to the Preface of The Peasant War in G ermany (1870)", Engels pointed out that the working-class struggle . is being waged pursuant to its three sides - the theoretical, the political and the economic-practical (resistance to capitalists) - in harmony and in its interconnection in a systematic way. . This demands redoubled efforts in every field of struggle and agitation. In particular, it will be the duty of the leaders to gain an ever clearer insight into all theoretical questions, to free themselves more and more from the influence of traditional phrases inherited from the old world outlook, and constantly to keep in mind that socialism, since it has become a science, demands that it be pursued as a science, that is, that it be studied. (Karl Marx and Frederick Engels; Collected Works [New York: International Publishers, 1988] 23:630) It is precisely this element of scientific study that would be lacking in a broad coalition without a self-consciously Marxist component. As Marxists we must recognize that the focus on economic issues, without the simultaneous organization of an independent labor-based political party, has left the working people of the United States in a desperate position of declining power in the battle against the ruling class. The problem of the flight of capital to countries with grossly underpaid labor, and other consequences of the growth and power of the transnational corporations and international financial agencies, cannot be solved with "Buy American" campaigns or taxes on the export of capital. The relationships among the capitalist state, the national bourgeoisie, and the transnational corporations have changed qualitatively. We need Marxist analyses of these new relationships and workable strategies. We must develop a new Marxist political organization that will bring to these struggles the recognition of the need not only to fight for the immediate goals of improving the conditions of the working people of our country, but of the necessity for an internationalist approach toward workers everywhere. If we join in defending Asian, African, and Latin American workers against their exploitation by multinationals, we shall, at the same time, undercut the position of those corporate raiders here at home. The theoretical activity of Marxists can combine with economic and political struggles to give a deeper content to the spontaneous responses of the working class and other oppressed sectors of our society. Where there are Euro-American and African American workers in a plant on strike, unity between them may very well be spontaneous. But when African American workers were segregated to the coke ovens in the steel mills, while Euro-American workers were paid higher hourly rates in rolling mills, such unity was not spontaneously forthcoming. Even without deep theoretical analysis, African American workers fought this segregation, which brought them low pay in the dirtiest, most arduous, and most hazardous working conditions. As late as the 1970s, however, the class-collaborationist Euro- American leadership of the United Steelworkers of America defended this job segregation. Informed by a science of political economy showing that labor in white skin cannot be free when labor in a black skin is branded, Marxists understood the historical necessity of African American equality in freeing the U.S. working class from exploitation. Communists in the rolling mills joined their African American comrades in a common struggle to end this criminal segregation, a struggle which contributed to the replacement of the openly class- collaborationist union leadership. With a theoretical understanding of racism, Marxists were able to play a leading role in antiracist struggles of the 1930s - the Scottsboro case, the organization of sharecroppers' unions and of integrated industrial trade unions in Alabama, the fight against lynching and against Jim Crow restrictions that had kept African Americans from traveling, eating, or meeting with Euro-American workers and from participating in elections. These battles for democracy in the South prepared the way for the civil rights movement in the fifties and sixties, and made possible the election of what became the Congressional Black Caucus and subsequently the 1984 and 1988 presidential campaigns of Jesse Jackson. The bourgeoisie consciously propagates racist ideology to justify the wage differential between African American and Euro-American workers, as well as sexism, to maintain the wage differentials between men and women workers. An important part of the struggle against racism and sexism is to expose the pseudoscientific character of sociobiology and other genetic theories of race and gender inferiority. Marxist scholars stand out as the leading scientific school in debunking these racist theories, and these theoretical successes have stimulated much interest in dialectical materialism as a scientific methodology. Despite the outstanding contribution of Marxists, and the CPUSA in particular, to the struggle for African American equality, important shortcomings arose in the area of Marxist theoretical activity. The anti-intellectualism characterizing many aspects of U.S. culture also permeates the Left. Because the atmosphere in the CPUSA has been so inhospitable to intellectuals, most leading Marxist scholars have preferred to function outside the Party. The lack of organizational support from the CPUSA for Marxist theoretical activity has left us without comprehensive elementary textbooks in Marxist philosophy, political economy, and history with examples drawn from experience on this continent. A working-class abased Marxist political organization is needed to stimulate and support continuing studies of basic questions of Marxist theory relevant to the struggles of our people and to ensure the availability of Marxist literature, especially the classics. Political priorities must be chosen on the basis of accurate economic analyses. Capitalists have in recent years greatly expanded the economic activities from which they extract surplus value. The failure of the CPUSA to keep abreast theoretically with these changes in the pattern of capital investments led it to a one-sided focus on workers in heavy industry and to the deprecation of the work of comrades engaged in organizing workers of color and women workers in nonindustrial jobs. Thus, in whatever activities we as Marxists engage, many of us still carry some ideological baggage from the Stalin period. The process of unloading this baggage, of distinguishing what was valid and what was invalid in our theoretical understanding, is going to be a long one. We cannot afford to permit our Marxism to be frozen at its 1991 level. Without the opportunity of structured study that a Marxist organization can provide, we may keep, without knowing it, unexamined and unscientific ideas - mechanistic and dogmatic patterns of thought fostered during the Party's recent retrograde period. Neither can we afford to throw it all out - losing our heritage. One of the most important concepts of Marxist dialectics is the interconnectedness of all things. Lenin put considerable stress on the interconnections of the struggle against oppression in all layers of society with the struggle for the emancipation of the working class. These interconnections have frequently been ignored in the CPUSA. For example, as Communists we have always supported the right of women to regulate their own pregnancies, and pointed to the class and racist character of legislation that restricted it. But in practice the CPUSA never committed significant resources or cadres to the struggles of the women's movement on this issue. This lip- service, along with other indifference, created a deep distrust among many progressive women for Communist expressions of solidarity with their struggles. Fortunately, in some regions U.S. Communists displayed more theoretically advanced attitudes than those in the Party's national office. Communists in Minnesota remember how Gus Hall chastised them for allowing themselves to be diverted by a "secondary issue" when they did not rally around an anti-abortion candidate for governor who had a good record on labor issues. Even more obviously theoretically wrong attitudes governed the CPUSA's responses to gay and lesbian demands for an end to discrimination both inside and outside the CPUSA. In the early 1970s in Minnesota, however, the Party's electoral platform contained a statement against discrimination based on sexual preference. A member of the Political Committee of the Central Committee called for the elimination of the statement. She resigned herself to the rejection of her demand with the comment, "Only in Minnesota and California is this a problem." A 'MARXIST-LENINIST PARTY? n We are deliberately shunning a call for a "Marxist-Leninist party of the working class." This phrase has been used to refer to a party dedicated to the interest of the working class organized on the basis of democratic centralism, its members obligated to implement the program of the party in a disciplined way. The term Marxist-Leninist was adopted by the Communist movement after Lenin's death at a time when the Leninist concept of democratic centralism was being increasingly deformed; misunderstandings associated with these concepts will take time to overcome, as well as study to reach valid interpretations. In the United States, the potential for attracting people to an organization guiding itself on the tradition of Marx, Engels, and Lenin, as outlined above, is many times the number that have actually joined or remained in parties or movements claiming to follow this tradition. (These organizations often lacked internal democracy or associated themselves ideologically with parties in former socialist countries in which the Leninist concepts of internal democracy were criminally deformed.) The members of the Committees of Correspondence have not yet had time to discuss the organizational principles appropriate to a revolutionary Marxist organization with the participation of those who, previously reluctant to join one, are now ready to do so. The principle of democratic centralism is not unique to Leninists. It was even adopted by the Mensheviks as their organizational basis in 1905 before the Bolsheviks had done so. It is a principle practiced by many bourgeois- oriented organizations, though without the use of the term. The term itself is widely associated with the deformations under Stalin. We have not had adequate opportunity to redefine the principle and its specific consequences in the United States of the l990s. It would be premature to accept it without such a reexamination. The problem of how to constitute ourselves a Marxist political organization must be resolved at the July conference. In the United States, political parties are the basic organizational form for running candidates for public office, though not all candidates run as candidates of a party. In the CPUSA in the 1940s and again in the 1950s, the idea of a transforming the Communist Party into a communist political association was connected with the argument that the two-party political system in the United States is too deeply entrenched for a third party to emerge. The conversion of the CPUSA into a political association was to facilitate the activities of Communists inside the Democratic Party. A strong case can be made that the United States is not forever locked into a two-party system. First of all, third parties have emerged successfully in the history of our country when they consolidated themselves as class organizations, the Republican Party being one example. In Minnesota, the Farmer-Labor Party in the 1930s elected two governors and one congressman; third-party candidates have been elected from time to time in other parts of the country. The New Democratic Party in Canada has emerged as a major political force from a two-party system of long standing. We continue to work for a broad left political formation with an eye to its emerging as an independent political force. The present question is not whether to dissolve ourselves into the Democratic Party, but whether we weaken or strengthen ourselves by forming a new political party at this time. The Committees of Correspondence are really new organizations. Even those of us who have worked together for years as members of the CPUSA are working together in a new manner, without a rigid pecking order imposed from above. Many have worked together in coalitions, as individuals or as representatives of other organizations. In those situations, a shared ideological position did not need to go beyond the issues that brought them together. As members of the Committees of Correspondence, we are in a new ideological relationship far broader than before. We would argue that for the present a nonparty structure is more appropriate for conducting political activities and theoretical studies, thereby permitting the accumulation of experiences that may lead to the formation of a Marxist party when it becomes appropriate. Formation of a party with the present limited membership would degenerate into the consolidation of a left sect. 'DEMOCRATIC SOCIALISM'? n In the international debates among Marxists it has sometimes been stated that term democratic socialism is inherently democratic and the inclusion of the term democratic suggests reformism - capitalism with some form of social welfare, as advocated by the parties belonging to the Socialist International. The problem with this view is that socialism is a transitional stage between capitalism and communism, during which control of the means of production and of the product of production are transferred to those doing the work. The distribution of the product of production is based on the contribution of the individual to its production. (Under communism, with a highly developed level of the forces of production, property distinctions vanish: the means of production are used, not owned, and the distribution of the product of production is according to need - real or imagined). The Marxist literature of the former socialist countries referred not to "control" over the means of production and the product of production, but to the "ownership" of the means of production. The socialization of an economy was considered to have been completed when the means of production were largely property of the people as a whole (state sector) or property of producers' collectives (collective sector). As it turned out, the bureaucratization within the Party and state undermined the development of democratic structures that would give the working people meaningful control over the deployment of the means of production and the distribution of the product of production. The economies and the state were decreed as socialist, just as the parties were declared to be Marxist-Leninist parties of the working class even when they had lost their Marxist-Leninist character. In reality, the transition was being reversed: instead of a continuation of the transition from capitalism to socialism, a regressive process began, from socialism back into capitalism, through the reestablishment of exploitative relations of production (consumption by the bureaucratized elements of society, not based on their actual contribution to production). We should not hesitate to identify the socialism we call for as democratic. Our Marxist scientific method is a powerful tool for analyzing political problems and for organizing effective action to deal with these problems. Although crimes have been committed in the name of Marxism and terrible political mistakes have been made, we should not abandon our science because some of its practitioners were corrupt or wrong. We must learn from the mistakes of the movement, both abroad and at home. We must return to a critical study of the writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin - and other Marxist thinkers - in order to deepen our understanding of the struggle for socialism. We believe that this study, and the political action it will guide, can best proceed in the Committees of Correspondence as a Marxist organization. o Editorial Collective: April Knutson, Lenore Burgar,, Doris Marquit, Erwin Marquit, Janet Quaife, and Hal Schwartz.