History of the CPUSA and lessons for today (Post to the Black Orchid blog)
by, 15th August 2011 at 14:12 (693 Views)
History of the CPUSA and lessons for today
(Post to the Black Orchid blog)
mamos Aug 6:
mamos Aug 9:"So the end to the story is really tragic: great organizers like Flynn and Parsons ended up in this decrepit Stalinist organization because they had nowhere else to go, every other political formation got smashed or destroyed. Imagine if they had built a political grouping of the best, most seasoned IWW class warriors in the nineteen-teens, capable of engaging in political agitation against World War I with the underground apparatus necessary to withstand the resulting repression? If they had done this the CPUSA would have had serious competition early on, and it may not have been able to suck in and later purge out or deform the best anti-authoritarian militants of the whole early 20th century upsurge."
comment by me:"Was it lack of a clear analysis of what was going on in Russia, which caused a lot of folks, even anti-authoritarians, to romanticize the Bolsheviks? Itís not like the CPUSA was Stalinist from jump... at itís very beginning it came out of a milieu that included a lot of anti-authoritarians... why were they unable to continue the IWW as a revolutionary organization and/ or build an alternative to the CPUSA instead of joining the CPUSA and building it?"
"I think itís important to answer these questions so that we donít end up getting sidelined by authoritarian Leftists again in the future."
First, my apologies for my delay in replying to some of the interesting comments on this thread. This thread (and others threads on this site) have been on my mind, but I needed to make the time to comment.
My view is that the CPUSA was the best-organized and most revolutionary organization that has ever existed in the United States--at least prior to its degeneration in the 1930's.
The mid-1930's degeneration (ie: into subservience to the bourgeoisie: becoming the tail end of Roosevelt's Democratic train) was directed by Stalin. Stalin was alarmed about Hitler's rise to power and the eventual nazi invasion of Russia, and was desperate to make any concessions he could to the Western imperialists, in the hopes that they might make a deal with him to put a leash on Hitler).
What lessons does this offer for the development of the kind of revolutionary mass organization which we need?
The primary lesson, in my view, is that we need an organization which is resilient and resistent in the event of disorientation or betrayal by its leadership.
The CPUSA lived, so to speak, by imported consciousness. The Soviet revolutionary experience was quite advanced (in the early period around 1920) compared to the experience of the class struggle here in the U.S. So it was natural that the bolsheviks had great influence in the development of the CPUSA.
But if you live by imported consciousness, then you may die by imported consciousess. And this is what happened.
When the Soviet revolution degenerated, this degeneration was eventually exported worldwide.
The masses at the base of the organization must be aware of the struggles within the organization for its direction and destiny.
This is the primary lesson.
The masses at the base of this organization must participate, and be completely engaged, in these struggles. This is the only way that the disorientation or betrayal by the leadership can be successfully opposed.
But doing things in this way requires that the "internal" struggles of a revolutionary mass organization also be public. This is because any mass organization--in which the members and supporters at the base are involved in struggle for the future of the organization--will not be able to keep these struggles secret from friend or foe.
We must understand and accept this.
I have written about this more elsewhere. My conclusion is that we should think of the primary organizational principle as being "democratic communication" rather than "democratic centralism". Democratic communication means that all members and supporters of an organization (and all activists, including those outside the organization's circles of influence) _have a right to know what the fuck is going on_ with the organization--and have a right to make their voice (and the weight of their bitter experience) felt.
The operation of this principle, at the present time, is that criticism of revolutionary organizations must be _public_. The more revolutionary and important the organization is--the greater will be the corresponding need for _public criticism_ from activists. This public criticism will constitute a _conscious force_. And it is _only_ this conscious force that can keep the organization on the right track.
All the best,
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