11 - The Need for a New Marxist Organization by the Minnesota Committee of Correspondence >
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.