Nations Want Liberation: The Black Belt Nation in the 21st Century

(By Return to the Source)

Thousands rally for Trayvon Martin in Sanford, FL.

In the past year, the United States has experienced an upsurge in black political consciousness as hundreds of thousands of organizations and people poured into the streets to demand justice for Trayvon Martin, the 17 year-old African-American youth brutally murdered in Sanford, FL. Martin’s case has drawn enormous attention to the daily terrorism inflicted on African-Americans by both the US government and vigilante terrorists, like George Zimmerman, who uphold and enforce a vicious system of white supremacy.

As the movement against police brutality and racist oppression continues to grow, Marxist-Leninists must grapple with the burning question of how to build a revolutionary national liberation struggle capable of ending white supremacy and imperialism in the United States.

Seeking to capitalize on the growing struggle against racism, the International Socialist Organization (ISO) has republished a series of articles from the 1980s reflecting their understanding of “The History of Black America” in its newspaper, Socialist Worker. Complete with all of the errors endemic to their bizarre Trotskyite understanding of revolutionary history, these articles are a flaccid attempt for a mostly white organization – an organization that expelled several activists of color from its Washington DC branch in 2010, no less – to make itself relevant to the struggle of African-Americans against white supremacy.

However, one article in particular, republished on Saturday, June 16, stands above the rest in its historical revisionism, its fallacious analysis, and its generally poor syntactical construction. Lee Sustar’s piece, “Self-determination and the Black Belt” is a hit piece on the Marxist-Leninist demand for African-American self-determination, the entire concept of the Black Belt nation, and black nationalism in general.

Rife with historical errors, strawman characterizations, and misspellings, Sustar’s piece itself is barely worth a response. Never missing an opportunity to denounce and slander Josef Stalin, Sustar makes the totally absurd claim that “The Black Belt theory was part of a sharp “left” turn by the Communist International (Comintern) used by Joseph Stalin to mask his bureaucracy’s attack on the workers’ state,” arguing that somehow upholding the demand for African-American self-determination allowed Josef Stalin to better consolidate his so-called “state capitalist regime in Russia.” (1) The relationship between the struggle for black nationalism and the USSR is never explained or warranted by Sustar.

Neither is his claim that the demand for black self-determination was based “on the works of a Swedish professor who aimed to theoretically justify the political turns of the bureaucracy which was coming to control Russia.” (2) Sustar never names this Swedish professor, supposedly the progenitor of the demand for black self-determination, nor does he offer any evidence that such a professor had any impact on the development of the black national question adopted and implemented by the Communist International (Comintern). But a lack of evidence never stands in the way of the ISO’s vicious slander of Marxism-Leninism so the omission of key facts is both unsurprising and expected.

However, the continued relevance and renewed importance of the black national question in the 21st century demands serious consideration by Marxist-Leninists. It is important to respond to these unprincipled criticisms and slander of the experiences of black nationalist organizations and the CPUSA. The ISO may have published this piece nearly 30 years ago, but the same theoretical bankruptcy demonstrated in this re-published essay continues to inform their strange blend of Cliffite-Trotskyism today.

Instead, Marxist-Leninists must put forward a principled and materialist evaluation of the successes and failures of these various groups struggling for black liberation that appropriately contextualizes their specific struggles. Continue reading

With Whom do Communists Stand in Syria? What is the “Solution” to the Syria Question?

The following was an e-mail response by the author of Toilers’ Struggle to some comrades’ question: “What is the solution in Syria?”  

Allow me to posit the following:

The question of NATO intervention in Syria and the Syrian Civil War is a fundamental question of crucial importance to the Marxist-Leninist theory, strategy, and tactics of anti-imperialist struggle in today’s world. It involves a number of important recognitions of the conditions of anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist struggle in the epoch of imperialism, such as the balance and arrangement of class forces in a given time and space, the nature of and possible alliances between certain classes oppressed by imperialism, and the objective realities of struggle in a world in which the main enemy in many circumstances is imperialism, not necessarily capital itself.

The current civil war in Syria, in which the US-NATO imperialist gang is preparing to intervene in order to bolster the losing rebels, is a brutal, merciless, and destructive war waged, not by the popular masses against the Syrian state, but by and on the initiative of the “rebels”, a motley assortment of Islamic fundamentalist groups such as Al-Qaeda who are only “united” as the (make-believe) “Free Syrian Army” by the fact that they are all provably on the US payroll. There are no evident progressive or democratic tendencies or groups among the rebels, much less a significant Syrian proletarian presence, as a large amount of the rebels have actually crossed Syrian borders from foreign countries solely for the purpose of bringing down the secular Assad government.  The only formulated demand of the Free Syrian Army thus far has been “down with Assad.” No program or alternative vision has been placed on the agenda, mainly owing to the motley composition of the rebels who are divided over commitments to their own sectarian visions of a future theocracy.  The “political representative” of the Free Syrian Army, i.e., the Syrian National Council, is based in Istanbul, Turkey (!) and is a cabinet of stooges selected by the West whose only platform, unsurprisingly, has been that the new Syria cooperate with the West, and “respect human rights, freedom of the press, political pluralism, and democracy.” Continue reading

Founding a New Communist Workers’ Party: A Reading List

(Compiled by Marxism-Leninism Today) 

 Save the Party!  by Dean Christ, Kevin Kyle, and Joan Phillips

By Their Fruits You Shall Know Them  by Thomas Kenny

Kicking It up a Notch… Means Adding the Communist Plus!  by Michael Sheinberg

For a Return to the CPUSA’s Antiwar Principles by Mark Anderson

For a CPUSA that Honors the Soviet Experience by Angelo D’Angelo, Ed Wlody, Kevin Keating

Reflections on Revisionism in the CPUSA by Edward A. Drummond

Decision Time for the CPUSA  by Edward A. Drummond

The CPUSA Line “Unity against the Ultra Right” is Wrong and Harmful  by Edward A. Drummond

From Revisionism to Party Liquidation by Edward A. Drummond

The Crisis of the CPUSA, Part 1 and Part 2   by Edward A. Drummond

Impressions of the CPUSA Convention  – Various Delegates

A Tangled Webb: A Party of Socialism for the 21st Century  by Roger Keeran

Faux Marxism by Zoltan Zigedy

Irrelevance and Eventual Demise  by Zoltan Zigedy

International Criticism of Webb’s “A Party of Socialism for the 21st Century” by the Communist Parties of Greece, Mexico, Germany, Canada




Reflections on Revisionism in the CPUSA

(By Edward A. Drummond)

In July 2005, a discussion document, Reflections on Socialism (RoS), authored by one of the leaders of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA), appeared in print and was widely distributed by mail with a cover letter inviting comment. It has now been placed on the CPUSA web site as well as — in shortened form — on the web site of the Communist Review, the theoretical journal of the Communist Party of Britain.

RoS was originally (and to my knowledge still is) presented, not as an official CPUSA document, but as a personal text put forth for public discussion, which I consider as a very positive step forward. Taking up this invitation, the following paper critically evaluates the theses presented in RoS. However, my criticism of RoS should in no way be interpreted as a criticism of ,much less an attack on the CPUSA. The CPUSA has a solid and proud history of struggle for the cause of the working class and socialism, and, in my view, neither RoS nor my criticism of that document could in any way diminish, much less deny, the heroic role the CPUSA has played, both in the USA and internationally, in defense of the international working class and its ideology and worldview, Marxism-Leninism. Nor should my criticisms of the theses advanced in RoS, despite its sharp language, be interpreted as a personal attack on the author of the document, who has a clear history of struggle in defense of the working class.

The discussion here is not about organizations and individuals, but about concepts, ideas and the science of Marxism-Leninism. We are well aware of the international ideological pressures on the Communist movement to relinquish its revolutionary worldview. Many have succumbed to these pressures and many are still trying to stay the course. We are also well aware of the weaknesses in the past of our failure to advance Marxism-Leninism as the most advanced science of our times. Any effort to advance this science is well justified, including that of the author of RoS. But, by the same token, any criticism of such an effort is also justified, for the sake of science, for the sake of the working class and socialism. It is my sincere hope that this article is seen in this light and nothing else. I take this opportunity to gratefully acknowledge friends and colleagues who offered far-reaching, helpful criticisms of earlier drafts. Any remaining errors of fact or analysis are mine alone.

—Edward Drummond, January 25, 2006

A. The Soviet Downfall and the New Revisionism

Today the Communist parties are being shaken by powerful struggles for direction, whether the Communist Refoundation in Italy, the Communist Party in Austria, the DKP in Germany, or in France, the Communist Party. Everywhere there are debates about the program content and the party line … the defeat of socialism in the Soviet Union has thrown the European Communist parties into a deep crisis. I emphasize European, however. The spirit of struggle in India, in Latin America, in the Near East and South Africa and other regions of the capitalist world is unbroken…. We have not only lost the political battle for socialism, but also the world outlook of our understanding of history…. Petty bourgeois ideology has penetrated into scientific socialism. — Hans Holz, January 2005 Continue reading

A Tangled Webb: A Party of Socialism in the 21st Century

(By Roger Keeran) 

In February 2011, Sam Webb’s “A Party of Socialism in the 21st Century” appeared on the website of Political Affairs. No one who has read Webb’s statements in the past decade will be surprised by his recent effort which is just a re-statement of his social democratic views. Edward A. Drummond has fully analyzed Webb’s previous writings in “Reflections on Revisionism in the USA” and other articles available on this web site.

Still, several novelties exist in the most recent piece that deserve a rejoinder.

Webb claims to have come to some bold and new ideas after the fall of the Berlin wall and after reading or re-reading some Marx, Engels, Lenin, Gramsci and others. What is astonishing is that Webb thinks his ideas are bold and new, when they have been advocated by social democrats like Edward Bernstein since 1899.

All of the following ideas touted by Webb would fit comfortably in the program of any socialist or social-democratic party of the 2oth century: rejection of the term “Marxism-Leninism,” the embrace of “‘gradual'” and “‘reform'” (not “dirty words”), the elevation of “electoral and political struggle to a primary arena,” the stress on “the struggle for democracy,” “challenging the notion that everything is subordinate to class and class struggle,” the “condemnation of the Stalin regime,” the idea that “the nature of the struggle…[is]winning positions and influence in the state,” the idea that “socialism will bring an end to exploitation of wage labor, not in one fell swoop, but over time,” the “embrace of a new humanist ethos,” the rejection of “democratic centralism” and of a party with “a high degree of discipline and centralized structure,” and so forth.

In other words, Webb’s vision of a party of socialism of the 21st century turns out to look a lot like a socialist party of the 20th century, if not the 19th century. One might be tempted to say with Marx, “first time tragedy, second time farce,” except this is not the second time that social democratic ideas have appeared in a Communist Party as something bold and new. It is more like the hundred and second time.

Lenin noted in “What Is To Be Done?” (a book notably missing from Webb’s reading list) that the attraction of social democratic ideas is completely understandable, particularly when reaction is riding high and revolution is on the distant horizon. Lenin compared revolutionaries to a group holding each others’ hands while marching along a “precipitous and difficult path” trying to advance while surrounded by enemy fire. He compared those who advocated social democratic ideas at such moments to those who wanted to leave this path and retreat into a neighboring marsh. Continue reading

The CPUSA and the CPI(Maoist): A Tale of Two Kinds of Marxists

On May 27th, 2013, the Communist Party USA shared on its facebook a statement by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) on the May 25th ambush and murder of 28 Indian politicians by Maoist rebels.  The statement, endorsed by the CPUSA, read:

“The PolitBureau of the CPI(M) strongly condemns the barbaric attack by the Maoists…This is the latest and most shocking example of the politics of violence and terror practiced by the Maoists against all their political opponents…The CPI(M) extends its condolences to the families of all those killed. It demands a high level enquiry into the incident. It also demands firm action to be taken to stop these Maoists depredations. It calls upon all democratic forces to fight the politics of violence by the Maoists.”1

In a string of comments underneath the post, critics clearly expressed their disapproval of the CPUSA’s stance and used the opportunity to denounce the Party as “revisionist”, guilty of a “reactionary response” and “labor centrist complacency”, and some proceeded to condemn the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and defend the Maoists.  I even commented:  “It is a telling disgrace that our Party would uphold such a counter-revolutionary view on our comrades in the Global South giving the capitalist-imperialist system what it deserves. Solidarity with the Maoist revolutionary resistance!” Continue reading

Whither the Socialist Left? Thinking the Unthinkable

(By Mark Solomon)

On February 4, 2010 The Gallop Poll released its latest data on the public’s political attitudes. The headline read: “Socialism Viewed Positively by 36% of Americans.” While the poll did not attempt the daunting task of exploring what a diverse public understood socialism to mean, it nevertheless revealed an unmistakably sympathetic image of a system that had been pilloried for generations by all of capitalism’s dominant instruments of learning and information as well as by its power to suppress and slander socialist ideas and organization.

In sheer numbers, that means a population at the teen-age level and above of tens of millions with a favorable view of socialism.

Why then is the organized socialist movement in the United States so small and so clearly wanting in light of the potential for building its numbers and influence?

That is a crucial question. At every major juncture in the history of the country, radical individuals and organizations in advance of the mainstream have played essential roles in influencing, guiding and consolidating broad currents for social change. In the revolution that birthed this country, radical activists articulated  demands from the grass roots for an uncompromising and transforming revolution to crush colonial oppression. Black and white abolitionists fought to make the erasure of slavery the core objective of the Civil War while also linking that struggle to women’s suffrage and trade unionism. A mass Socialist Party in the early 20th century fought for state intervention to combat the ravages of an increasingly exploitative economic system while advancing the vision of a socialist commonwealth. In the Great Depression, the Communist Party and its allies fought the devastations of the crisis – helping to build popular movements to expand  democracy, grow industrial unions and defend protections for labor embodied in the historic New Deal. Continue reading