CPUSA - An internal party struggle commences
Current trends, anti-communism, cointelpro, and flipping positions on proletarian patriotism.
The CPUSA is the officially recognized national communist party in the United States, meeting internationally with communists parties around the world, and has carried on the tradition of the communist struggle in the US since 1919.
It has a long and storied history of supporting the fight for socialism, and the workers struggle in America for over a century. And despite numerous attempts to subvert it, surviving through the McCarthy Era and Red Scare, continued grassroots existence and membership growth despite COINTELPRO operations and co-option from spooks in the intelligence community, the party has survived.
Still, the path hasn’t been an easy one, and we’ll look at the history later, but there is a present issue also that has boiled over. A specter is haunting CPUSA. And it’s Communism in a party whose leadership has become inherently anti-communist.
Let’s start there.
The CPUSA national leadership has taken an interest in three internet online influencers, Caleb Maupin and his political project Center for Political Innovation (CPI), Peter Coffin co-host of PACD pod, and Haz of the Infrared Collective. What do they all have in common? They’re all Marxist-Leninists, support actually existing socialist states (People’s Republic of Chian, Vietnam, Laos, and Cuba, and the DPRK), and are all very well read Marxists who uphold the idea of proletarian patriotism. That last part, the patriotism drama, of all things, is where the CPUSA currently decided to focus it’s attention on. And that in and of itself is telling in regards to it’s current national prominence, or lack thereof. Going so far as to put out artwork like this:
And writing on Nov 1, 2021, Co-Chair of the Party Joe Sims of CPUSA stated:
Here the NC should take note of emerging trends that appear left but are actually pushing right-wing positions based on national chauvinism, racism, and fake populism, some of whom seek to link themselves to our history and reputation. We’re speaking specifically of an outfit calling itself the Center for Political Innovation along with the InfraRed webcast. They’re even calling for people to join the CPUSA in order to take it over.
What are we to make of this, that these online influencers have grabbed the attention of the Party at the national level. How far from grace have we fallen as communists in the United States, which is precisely what these Marxist-Leninist online presences are trying to change.
One must remember the history, this was the party that at one point, was so influential in the USA, that the FBI had a targeted counter intelligence program dubbed COINTELPRO, that lead to the prosecution of and death as of several communists from the 1950s through the 1970s. That was the level of influence the communists wielded during the height of their struggle against imperialist hegemony. Yet today, we find ourselves with a party scared of online influencers. From the US government as an adversary, to online personalities promoting proletarian patriotism. Something doesn’t seem to add up.
And that’s what we’re going to try to get to the bottom of; in this article I will incorporate primary sources from Marxist theorists, Lenin himself, Mao Zedong, Marx, and Parenti, and see if we can answer the following questions.
Should Marxists be patriotic? If so what does that mean?
Is there a difference between patriotism and nationalism?
Can patriotism be subverted into a rightward deviation, or can left patriotism exist at all?
What of land and self determination?
Why is CPUSA pushing back so hard on the patriotism question?
What is to be done, after reviewing the history of the CPUSA, in the party; is it a struggle worth fighting?
First, let’s set out the terms. How do Marxists view patriotism?
Can a Communist, who is an internationalist, at the same time be a patriot? We hold that he not only can be but also must be. The specific content of patriotism is determined by historical conditions. There is the "patriotism" of the Japanese aggressors and of Hitler, and there is our patriotism. Communists must resolutely oppose the "patriotism" of the Japanese aggressors and of Hitler. The Communists of Japan and Germany are defeatists with regard to the wars being waged by their countries. To bring about the defeat of the Japanese aggressors and of Hitler by every possible means is in the interests of the Japanese and the German people, and the more complete the defeat the better.... For the wars launched by the Japanese aggressors and Hitler are harming the people at home as well as the people of the world. China's case, however, is different, because she is the victim of aggression. Chinese Communists must therefore combine patriotism with internationalism. We are at once internationalists and patriots, and our slogan is, "Fight to defend the motherland against the aggressors."
This single quote from Mao Zedong answers a lot of questions. So let’s break it down. Mao makes the following presuppositions:
Communists must be patriots
The content of the patriotism is based in the historical material conditions.
Patriotism has two sides, one of false consciousness that sides with fascism, and one of proletarian consciousness, that seeks IN THEIR OWN COUNTRIES to disrupt the imperialist wars.
Patriotism is compatible with internationalism
The content of the patriotism changes between oppressor and oppressed.
How then can we apply this to the American historical conditions. I will premise the following about how the US sits in this historical moment based on Chairman Mao’s characterizations above:
America IS an aggressor with an international imperialist character. It is engaged in illegal imperial wars for conquest and profit. The American state is a bourgeois state controlled under the dictatorship of capital. And it is the patriotic duty of American communists to reject this bourgeois state, to not be defeatist and to struggle against the violence it commits at home and abroad. And, like the Germans and Japanese mentioned above, the American people themselves, are not the beneficiaries of the American state.
The material realities of America and China at the time of Mao’s writing are not the same obviously. In China, they already had their revolution, the state was a proletarian state, so patriotism toward the people’s government, according to Mao, was warranted because of China’s century of oppression from colonial powers and Imperial Japan. In America, this is not so—or at least it wouldn’t be if one could look at America as a homogenous nation, but it isn’t.
While there is an overarching bourgeois state apparatus, the American people are not homogenous nor are the regions of the country. There are the various nations within the United States itself not even counting the 50 state divisions. There are still existing indigenous nations, their is the pan-African nation, and even Appalachia. What? Yeah, sorry Sakaists, but the classification that there is no white proletariat in America is simply not supported by the material realities. First, let’s address the ultra left deviation, in the 1600s and 1700s, during the colonial period, the entirety of “Turtle Island” or modern day America, was not inhabited from seaboard to seaboard.
This is not to deny the atrocities or genocidal extermination the Anglo colonizers conducted against indigenous populations, but the whole idea of returning the entirety of the continent to the indigenous people to become the owners of the land is antithetical to socialism to begin with, where common ownership of the means of production, which includes land, is a keystone. Such an idea is also backed by some nefarious NGO/private development joint ventures, specifically Landback, a woke capitalist group called The NDN collective, which has received 12 million dollars from the charming multibillionaire Jeff Bezos, is one example of capitalism co-opting an identity group for it’s own profit, seeking to partner indigenous landlords to property development corporations, perpetuating class dichotomies and in no way resolving the inequality of class disparities but reproducing them. This is the same thing pointed out by Black Panther Fred Hampton when he said:
“We don’t think you fight fire with fire best ; we think you fight fire with water best. We’re going to fight racism not with racism, but we’re going to fight with solidarity. We say we’re not going to fight capitalism with black capitalism, but we’re going to fight it with socialism. We’re stood up and said we’re not going to fight reactionary pigs and reactionary state’s attorneys like this and reactionary state’s attorneys like Hanrahan with any other reactions on our part. We’re going to fight their reactions with all of us people getting together and having an international proletarian revolution.”
That aside, as Marxist-Leninists, we do agree with national self-determination of oppressed groups inside the US and abroad. We do support land reform programs, that would put land back into the hands of indigenous nations, specifically those still in existence, as a form of reparation from the atrocities committed by the British colonial project, and extended in the American bourgeois state’s march west. But what we can’t do is simply undo the past.
We can’t reset things back to how they were. What we can concern ourselves with, is what to do in the present to build a better society for all peoples on this land mass. And that love of country, not love of the US State, but of the land we live on, is a patriotism of the people. A patriotism that is inherently opposed to the rightist nationalism that the state would have you believe is the same thing. That CPUSA, would have you believe is the same thing. They’re so very wrong.
This gets complicated only in as far as one distorts what patriotism means for the proletariat. And let’s be clear, the US propaganda machine has been working over time since 1945, to conflate the two concepts, patriotism and nationalism into meaning the same thing. In fact, an American national treasure, Dr. Michael Parenti, wrote an entire book on the concept, called Superpatriotism.
If the test of patriotism comes only by reflexively falling into lockstep behind the leader whenever the flag is waved, then what we have is a formula for dictatorship, not democracy... But the American way is to criticize and debate openly, not to accept unthinkingly the doings of government officials of this or any other country.
Feel free to watch his lecture on the topic here:
However, it wasn’t only Mao, and Parenti who who had something to say about the national question. Lenin wrote along similar lines years earlier.
The history of modern, civilised America opened with one of those great, really liberating, really revolutionary wars of which there have been so few compared to the vast number of wars of conquest which, like the present imperialist war, were caused by squabbles among kings, landowners or capitalists over the division of usurped lands or ill-gotten gains. That was the war the American people waged against the British robbers who oppressed America and held her in colonial slavery,
The American people have a revolutionary tradition which has been adopted by the best representatives of the American proletariat, who have repeatedly expressed their complete solidarity with us Bolsheviks. That tradition is the war of liberation against the British in the eighteenth century and the Civil War in the nineteenth century. In some respects, if we only take into consideration the “destruction” of some branches of industry and of the national economy, America in 1870 was behind 1860. But what a pedant, what an idiot would anyone be to deny on these grounds the immense, world-historic, progressive and revolutionary significance of the American Civil War of 1863-65!
In his letter to the American Worker, he, like Marx, saw the American Revolutionary War and Civil War, at it’s time in history, as a progressive force. And if we follow the dialectical materialist framework, at the time it was.
Through the zigs and zags of historical development however, the America that developed post WWII, the imperialist global hegemon, had of course drastically changed in character as a world actor. No longer a progressive force, but an oppressive one; against its own workers at home, against international workers subject to economic warfare, against sovereign nations who had resources it felt entitled to, and against the tides of revolutionary progress. But none of those things set the american proletariat apart as a special labor aristocracy today. The middle class has nearly vanished. There are an incredibly small minority of professional managerial workers in collaboration with the capitalist and with false class consciousness and misaligned class allegiance, but the majority of the american workers are in the same hand to mouth, paycheck to paycheck predicament Marx described in volume 1 of Capital.
And that’s the distinction CPUSA fails to make, in their criticism of proletarian patriotism, they neglect to conceive that the historical conditions have changed. The same handful of oligarchs that emerged after the Civil War, The Rockefellers and the Vanderbilts—the robber barons of the oil, and more recently the tech giants, have expanded the internal colonization of the country from Appalachia, outward to most rural america that isn’t held by industrial farmers. Due to technological superiority and bargaining position in the post war era, the industrialists Lenin wrote about, wrought their destructive imperialist forces across the globe after 1945 to a degree never seen. No longer does the American government represent the American people.
The country is more divided than ever on polarized party lines. There has never been a better time to break the chains of the duopoly, and empower the people to take back the power. Every revolution in the history of recorded civil society has been about land, as the great Reverend Malcolm X pointed out in his message to the grassroots.
Look at the American Revolution in 1776. That revolution was for what? For land. Why did they want land? Independence. How was it carried out? Bloodshed. Number one, it was based on land, the basis of independence. And the only way they could get it was bloodshed. The French Revolution — what was it based on? The land-less against the landlord. What was it for? Land. How did they get it? Bloodshed. Was no love lost; was no compromise; was no negotiation. I’m telling you, you don’t know what a revolution is. ‘Cause when you find out what it is, you’ll get back in the alley; you’ll get out of the way. The Russian Revolution — what was it based on? Land. The land-less against the landlord. How did they bring it about? Bloodshed. You haven’t got a revolution that doesn’t involve bloodshed. And you’re afraid to bleed. I said, you’re afraid to bleed.“
Think about that for a moment. Land. Is the state apparatus the land? No, the land is populated by the people, and the people make up the American Nation. And I for one love the land I live on, have love for my community, have love for the people in it. I can think of nothing more patriotic, than improving that for all of us, by uniting us on that common thread we all share regardless of identity, our class.
We’re all workers inside the capitalist beast, and that’s the common thread binds us all. Being real frank and honest right now, the emancipation of any oppressed group isn’t going to happen until the economic base changes. Tokenization and weaponization of identity are tools of the bourgeois, and it pains me to see CPUSA using it in the same way.
So is it possible to be a patriot and a communist at the same time? Unequivocally yes.
In fact, it’s required.
Our patriotism is not a nationalism in support of the bourgeois wars and imperialist project. It is the very rejection of that, because that is what’s best for the American people, and in turn for all the exploited people by the American State. The truest sense of patriotism for the American people is to organize into a force that gives the State no choice but to heed to our demands. Despite the slanderous lies pushed by the collaborationist leadership in CPUSA today, it already sees the foregone conclusion. We will not be divided by a leadership that hates actual workers. Americans are a proud, diverse, multiracial, mulitcultural people. And most of us, the 99% of us, the great majority of us, simply want what’s best for our families, communities, and homes.
In the final analysis, national struggle is a matter of class struggle. Among the whites in the United States, it is only the reactionary ruling circles that oppress the black people. They can in no way represent the workers, farmers, revolutionary intellectuals and other enlightened persons who comprise the overwhelming majority of the white people. -Mao Zedong, August, 1963
We are not adversaries, as the liberal elites would have us believe because we have different ethnic, racial, or sexual identities, in fact we have a whole lot more in common with each other than we do with the rotten billionaire plutocracy despite all such differences.
We are here in the present moment:
Is a sense of national pride alien to us, Great-Russian class-conscious proletarians? Certainly not! We love our language and our country, and we are doing our very utmost to raise her toiling masses (i.e., nine-tenths of her population) to the level of a democratic and socialist consciousness. To us it is most painful to see and feel the outrages, the oppression and the humiliation our fair country suffers at the hands of the tsar’s butchers, the nobles and the capitalists. Vladimir Lenin - On the National Pride of the Great Russians 1914
Our task is to raise the toiling masses of America to a class consciousness, to squash the class collaborationists, to emancipate the American working people of all backgrounds from the capitalists’ yoke, the State’s pig class, property protectors with guns, and the authoritarian dictatorship of capital of the bourgeois state; and arouse through the existing national pride, an awakening to the true conditions that are keeping the majority oppressed.
Our task, as principled Marxist Leninists, is to eschew this false patriotism, and show the working people, the great masses of people in America, that it is in the best interest of all the working people of the world to remove the blinders of nationalism, and be real patriots, unite ourselves on working class lines, develop a true center of power to challenge the duopoly oligarchs, and build a future America we can be proud to call home. While we’re still working out how to do exactly that, I can tell you how you can’t do it. You can’t do it by shaming people into compliance, with wokescolding, with tone policing, with cancel culture, with a burn it all down mentality. The average american isn’t interested in any of that.
As Mao taught us, from the Mass Line, we meet the people where they are. The change will be dialectical, we will win some ground, lose some, win again in the struggle, but we MUST meet the people where they are. The workers of the US inherently understand class consciousness, they just need the framework we have to offer (Marxism and dialectical materialism) and the words to verbalize the unfairness and inequity in society they already recognize. If we, the most politically advanced workers, can’t do this, we have failed in our task as Vanguards. We are not here to gatekeep, but to open the gates to and minds of the hundreds of millions of workers being exploited today, and we’re starting with the CPUSA; the party that has always been the heritage of the working people.
Go join the party. And retake what’s ours.
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