Let me begin with the obvious: the left (organized and unorganized) has seldom been of one mind. Differences over aims, strategy, tactics, programmatic demands, forms of struggle, etc. have been commonplace.

This moment is no different. In fact, I would argue that two distinct and competing trends have taken shape in the course of the first year of the Obama presidency.

One trend stakes out a left position on every issue, resists compromise, believes that the Democratic Party has no democratic/reform potential, pays little attention to right-wing extremism in its strategic and tactical thinking, and reduces President Obama to nothing but a puppet of Wall Street.

This trend turns criticism of the Obama administration into a measure of one’s militancy. The sharper the tone the more legitimate one’s left credentials. The main, if not the only, thing holding up far-reaching political and economic reforms, in the eyes of this trend, is the president. Somehow, in this rendition of the political moment, the interaction and struggle between (and within) competing political coalitions/blocs composed of various class and social groupings has no or minimal bearing on the process of change since the 2008 elections. In short, the class struggle in all its complexity is both simplified and invisible.

This same trend “damns with faint praise” the new currents, thinking and initiatives in labor and people’s organizations, while it narrowly defines political independence as only electoral formations outside the two-party system. It acts as if militant minorities and moral outrage can reshape the political landscape alone, forgetting that popular majorities in the end make history.

Finally, this trend places an outsize accent on left initiative and unity, but detached from broader forms of unity and struggle.

The other trend on the left argues that the 2008 elections reset the political terrain to the advantage of working people and their allies.

While the Obama administration is not above criticism, this trend believes that criticism should be constructive and unifying, not a test of one’s radicalism.

The main role of the left, according to this trend, isn’t simply agitational – talking points, sound bites and militant slogans. Political agitation has an important place in class and democratic struggles, but only to the degree that the left is involved in day-to-day struggles in a sustained, practical and non-sectarian way.

In 2008, a broad people’s movement was instrumental in electing Obama and a Democratic majority in Congress. Since then, however, it hasn’t reached the same level and scale of activity. Without reassembling this coalition, progress will be largely unrealized.

This trend embraces left demands, but it embraces broader demands as well that masses of people are ready to fight for. It doesn’t counterpose one against the other. Instead, it sees broader mass demands as a highway that has to be traveled to win more progressive and radical changes.

In a similar vein, compromise isn’t a dirty word in this view. Instead, whether and when one makes compromises depends on a very sober estimate of the balance of class and social forces.

This trend understands as well that its task is not only to unite a broad multi-class coalition in the current phase of struggle, but also to assist the working class and its core allies to impress their unmistakable stamp on the struggle for reforms.

Unlike the other trend that shoehorns Obama into a tightly sealed political shell with little or no political potential, this trend believes he has a role, a potentially major one, to play at this juncture of the class struggle.

By the same token, it strongly rejects the notion that the task of the left is to reconfigure the struggle into a contest of the people’s movement against President Obama.

This trend supports left unity, but insists that practical involvement with broader movements and coalitions and some rough agreement on strategic orientation among left groups are a necessary condition for such unity.

Finally, an independent, labor-based people’s party is a strategic necessity in the view of this trend, but it doesn’t see such a formation on the short horizon. In the meantime, it supports struggles for political independence (which take many forms) both within and outside of the Democratic Party.

No individual, organization or social movement on the left fits neatly into one or the other trend outlined above. Life is always more complicated than broad generalizations. Nevertheless, these two trends are taking more definitive form and the future of the left and its place in U.S. politics, in my opinion, hinges on which trend becomes dominant. I think it is obvious where I stand.



Sam Webb
Sam Webb

Sam Webb is a member of the National Committee of the Communist Paryt USA. He served as the party's national chairperson from 2000 to 2014. Previously he was the state organizer of the Communist Party in Michigan. Earlier, he was active in the labor movement in his home state of Maine.

He is a public spokesperson for the CPUSA, and travels extensively in the U.S. and abroad, including trips to South Africa, China, Vietnam, and Cuba where he met with leaders of those countries.

Webb currently resides in New York City, graduated from St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia and received his MA in economics from the University of Connecticut.



  • I don’t care about Left cred but I do care about the killing of innocent children in drone attacks. Drone attacks that he openly justifies. I don’t care what his other successes are.

  • uhhhh….. guys? do you really think that communism is good after it killed many people?

  • So what are we doing? Were talking? What happened since the sincerity and determination of the men and women of 1917 Russia. What happened to us as human beings? Did our balls fall off? Or do we fear of getting kicked in the fucking balls? Seriously, The Red Guard was seriously outnumbered, but the energy that ran through their body’s eventually won the war. It wasn’t a war about anything else except unity and equality.
    We can’t just sit here and talk about it. What our we going to do about it. Do we need to convince the whole military, or just buy guns off the black market and start this inevitable war today???? Why not. We can win! If you don’t think that we can win you are not a communist. Communist’ DO NOT quit. And right now when our world is disoriented and looking for answers…We have them and this is our time. I don’t think I shall waist it by saying one more word here. Except… Join me, and FIGHT.

  • So what are we doing? Were talking? What happened since the sincerity and determination of the men and women of 1917 Russia. What happened to us as human beings? Did our balls fall off? Or do we fear of getting kicked in the fucking balls? Seriously, The Red Guard was seriously outnumbered, but the energy that ran through their body’s eventually won the war. It wasn’t a war about anything else except unity and equality.
    We can’t just sit here and talk about it. What our we going to do about it. Do we need to convince the whole military, or just buy guns off the black market and start this inevitable war today???? Why not. We can win! If you don’t think that we can win you are not a communist. Communist’ DO NOT quit. And right now when our world is disoriented and looking for answers…We have them and this is our time. I don’t think I shall waist it by saying one more word here. Except… Join me, and FIGHT.

  • You all make me sick. Communism never worked and never will. This is America and i will die before i turn it over to you marxist scum bags. This is constitutional republic dont forget that retards. God and Country is all that matters.

  • The fragmention of the left in the U.S. has crippled its capacity to lead and has only served to further the interests of capitalism. The CPUSA strategy of working within the system, recognizing the important role that Obama has played in building a broad-based working class consensus as well as coalescing with progressive labor and other progressive movements has the best chance of success in this country. The CPUSA should make efforts to coalesce with DSA which has a very similar strategy of working within the Democratic Party. DSA has the largest membership of any socialist organization in the U.S. This admittedly may be difficult because there are those within both organizations who are highly suspicious of the other group but this is just another example of how the fragmentation of the left is crippling its capacity to lead. The CPUSA would greatly improve its chances at forging such a relationship if it publicly repudiated its past associations with the failed Soviet Union, Soviet imperialism and in particular its defense of Stalinism. This history will forever shadow the Party unless it strikes out in a new direction.

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  • @donny, don, etc.,

    Im sorry the labor movement (can we drop the conceit of calling the calcified, paid-for labor beauracy and its tiny, battered, ever-shrinking membership a “movement’) feels “alienated” by a flare up of popular resistance. Perhaps its to be expected, since the labor beuracracy has spent the last 5 decades (at least) alienating everyone else. The occupy protests were at least a sign of life. Much of the leadership of “The labor movement” apparently now agrees with us (miraculously). The rest of your snippetts were devoted to (weak) ad hominem attack….i mean come on, “suburban young men” ?? The Skinheads at least can muster a good ad hominem attack. I should probably be arguming with them. Theres really no point in arguing with some soft, hypocrtical, revisionist liar. You’ll just go on defending your cushy opinions, falsifiable assertions from now till the sun fails.

  • Even the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks needed to create a coalition. However, I cannot get over the fact that Obama’s and his Democrat’s campaign donors come from the same, bourgeois, ruling class gene pool. Rosa Luxemburg wrote a poignent piece called, “Reform or Revolution.” I understand the differences between early 20th Century Russia and 21st Century United States. Pannekoek was on target when he identified the sharp contrast between Russia and Western, capitalist Europe. He noted that the tactics of the Russian revolution were not necessarily pheasable in Western Europe. Western Europe was an industrialized region whereas Russia was a feudal, agrarian, medieval state in many respects. He also criticized Stalin for waging a tyrannical counter-reformation.

    That being said, I think that a military revolution is untenable. It would put the revolution back over 100 years as the imperialists own the global military industrial complex. I also believe that the persecution of religion and religious persons has no place in a Marxist society. The state must respect this as a civil liberty. The religion of atheism, and it has its dogma, its faith in no deity, etc, cannot possibly replace other religions or the socialist society that is realized will automatically be stratified, and another Stalin will emerge. However, I cannot see myself being a Democrat patsy either. I as a Marxist, this creates a great amount of dissonence for me. However, the Marxist left is totally splintered, often working against itself based upon dogma and its rigid applications to modern Marxist thought. We cannot be so rigid if we are to realize a socialist international. Marx, Lenin, etc were human and given to error. There’s is not a universal blueprint to achieve a socialist international. In fact, Stalinism and Maoism have failed, not socialism.

    Thank you comrades. Does the party accept differing views on this matter?

  • I have outright rejected the distorted belief that the Democrat AND Republican parties have reform capabilities. Both parties represent bourgeois, ruling class interests. These interests are dictated first and foremost by global banking elites who have managed to ramp up their controls upon the global economy. Their main instrument in the United States happens to be Wall Street, and the Federal Reserve. These institutions have no accountability to the people, yet they determine economic outcomes of every worker in the United States; and to a large degree, every worker in the world. Both major political parties in the United States are capitalist parties that are funded by the monied interests that drive their policies. The Rothschild banking monopoly, which has financed both sides of every major European and American conflict since 1800, does not care which regime is in power so long as they control the monetary policies, and the flow of money for any given regime. Ten Rothschild-owned, global banks have representatives upon the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States. The name, ‘Goldman-Sachs’ is one of them. So, you can see, based upon this information, that both Democrat and Republican parties ARE puppets of global banking elites. Thomas Jefferson refused to renew the charter of the first National Bank of America because it was a subsidiary of the Bank of England (A Rothschild family entity in Britain). The War of 1812 broke out as a result. Abraham Lincoln refused to renew the charter for a third National Bank of America for the same reasons as Thomas Jefferson. Rothschild’s bank funded the Confederacy and ultimately assassinated Lincoln using Confederate pawns. John F. Kennedy merely suggested that the powers of the Federal Reserve ought to be curtailed. He was assassinated. The power of these capitalists has no bounds. Colluding with Democrats is ineffective. Socialism cannot coexist with capitalism. Socialist social policies will cause untold suffering upon the people if this demented capitalist system is left to survive as well. It is the duty of all socialists to fight capitalism. The CP-USA needs to rethink its adulterous behaviors with the Democrat Party whore.
    Comrade Thomas Lane

  • I enjoy your analysis. If anyone wonders about the effects of the first trend simply look at the Seattle Occupy movement. It has degenerated into a small group of people speaking to a small group of people who have effectively alienated the labor movement, the religious community, the working class and most import the majority of residence who’s participation is critical.

  • I agree, it’s nice to hear a reasoned approach rather than the shrill screams against organized labor made by fake revolutionary suburban young men

  • Obama’s assasinated of Bin Laden has boosted his popularity with American voters substantually. CNBC says he’s unbeatable now. Obama is now going after other high ranking terrorists in the same dramatic way. As long as he stays popular, I’d look for him to continue moving to the political center. The Left will get upset-but what difference does it make. If he wins again, look for him to move Left until the end of his term time, when he will move dramatically Right.
    He did kick off his election campaign you know and he’s using his office as a campign platform flawlessly.

  • “This trend turns criticism of the Obama administration into a measure of one’s militancy. The sharper the tone the more legitimate one’s left credentials. The main, if not the only, thing holding up far-reaching political and economic reforms, in the eyes of this trend, is the president. Somehow, in this rendition of the political moment, the interaction and struggle between (and within) competing political coalitions/blocs composed of various class and social groupings has no or minimal bearing on the process of change since the 2008 elections. In short, the class struggle in all its complexity is both simplified and invisible.”

    This is of course, ridiculous. This “trend” is responding to the indifference and outright hostitlity that the Obama administration has shown the Left. The excitement over the 2008 election on the left, was due to Obama. I think it safe to say there would not have been over a million at the inauguration had it been john kerry. Its only natural that Obama as a symbol of the “hope” of the left, will be a symbol of the failure of “change” on the Left. The rest of your impenetrable comment could have come from the wh press secretary himself! essentially the failure of the democrats is a “complicated” issue that the childish left dosent understand. In the face of the ENTHUSIASTIC continuation of the worst neoliberal economic polices and the very worst of the bush administrations imperialist foreign policy, this is revisionist history, almost not worth responding to. WHERE is the communist party? do we have a communist party anymore? or are we democrats in leftist drag?

  • I tend to agree, in some ways, with both trends. There’s plenty of reason leftists should be outraged with Obama’s performance, yet we can’t place full blame on him, there is the legislative branch, after all.

    To a degree, I agree with M Mafi. Kind of. A leftist movement has to be a strong movement, one that clearly marks a difference between the Democrats, who are in truth centrists, and this new political party. This new political party would be the perfect balancing hinge in congress to allow more efficiency with laws passed, and more balance. The Republican Party is far-right, the democrats centrist, and I don’t want to be part of a right-wing militaristic nation anymore.

    Queue Leftist-Party entering the scene?

    Class solidarity though is something I disagree with. Since money is power we can’t just exclude the rich. Yet the working class is the heart of America, and what we SHOULD be fighting for. It’s a bottom-up economy that will save us, not top-down. If we could merely convince the rich it would be better for their own financial security, and a more stable and progressive economy really would be in their best interest, than we can make this a multi-class movement. We must not forget our ideals as we enter the political game, but the game must still be played.

  • I fail to see the logic in abandoning the essence of class solidarity and compromising our most dearly held values and beliefs to appease those on the far right of the political spectrum (who, incidentally, are much more unified and uncompromising than any analogous group on the left) when said rightists will never work with us anyways. If we’re in the business of compromising our ideals and giving in to those who are really our mortal class enemies, why call ourselves communist at all? If we’re going to be spineless, cowardly, and appeasing, we might as well be honest with ourselves and rightly label ourselves liberals.

  • I was recently surprised to be called “far left” by a veteran member of the CPUSA, a leading supporter of the strategy and tactics of your party leadership. The charge was made in the course on an online discussion of the anti-war marches of March 20, 2010. In Canada, people with my political orientation and commitments are unexceptional rank and file members of the Communist Party of Canada.

    It seemed to me that it may be becoming increasingly easy to be identified with that particular deviation by some CPUSA members due to the statements and decisions made on internationalist issues by the present leadership of the Communist Party USA.

    It had always been understood in our global Communist movement that the CPUSA guarded an outpost in the anti-imperialist struggle because of its position at the center of the USA, the world’s leading imperialist power. Through many struggles and US-led wars we have looked with confidence to the American party to speak truth to power in the United States of America.

    I am seriously concerned that some of the more basic signposts and working-class internationalist perspectives of our global movement are being questioned by leaders of the American party. My main question is whether or not these recent step-backs from Communist identity represent an ideological shift rightwards by the CPUSA.

    Two instances that illuminate the cause of my concern:

    Rick Nagin while campaigning in his ward in the Cleveland election suggested to The Plain Dealer and Press the dropping of the “Communist” name. He suggested the “New Socialist Party” might be a good replacement might be a good replacement with less stigma.

    Another CPUSA leader Roberta Wood, was quoted in Political Affairs as telling this past Anniversary celebration of the birth of the CPUSA that the hammer and sickle should be replaced as the party symbol because it only suggests “The Grim Reaper”. It is not necessarily a matter of concern to global communists when a national CP adopts an alternate name and has of course happened in certain parties.

    As an international fraternal party member I can not help but wonder if there is a deeper ideological significance to such suggestions because these suggestions about Communist symbols and identity have been accompanied by rightward political omissions and commissions that seem to possibly suggest a withdrawal from basic principles of Leninist anti-imperialist commitments.

    For example, the official non-participation by the CPUSA Leadership in the March 20th coalition marches across the country seemed an ominous signal that not only might communism’s oldest symbols be up for grabs, but the Communist fight-back against a stepped-up US imperialism in Afghanistan may be being eclipsed by right-opportunist ideology.

    I hope American comrades may understand why a member of a neighboring Communist party involved in the anti-imperialist struggle against the US-led NATO military alliance would be concerned by the ambiguity of these acts and omissions.

    I have concluding questions which I respectfully ask the members and friends of the American party to consider.

    By abstaining from official participation in the March 20th marches across different US cities was the CPUSA leadership failing in its internationalist duty to the people of the occupied nations and the global working-class?

    John Bachtell of the CPUSA leadership has stated on open internet exchange that it is not “helpful” to speak of US imperialism today. Does this represent a strategic or tactical move or a move from Leninism by the CPUSA leadership?

    In a pre-March 20 political statement, an official discussion document: “International Issues and US Foreign Policy by Communist Party USA” the leadership authors made a slighting reference to “narrow Left elements” under the heading “Peace movement and its role.”

    “Some narrow left elements within the peace movement insist on lumping the new administration in with the Bush administration, maintaining the same oppositional stance. To be sure, an important task of the peace movement remains opposing and mobilizing against policies that continue the old destructive path, such as the military escalation in Afghanistan.”

    The co-sponsors of the marches included Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK, Iraq Veterans Against the War, a wide variety of trade union militants, and some of the main middle-class Muslim citizen associations, members of the School of the Americas Watch, Catholic religious, etc. Why was the first major anti-war march in the US since Obama took office not officially endorsed by your party leadership? I think this is an honest Communist question that deserves a response in light of President Obama’s massive troop surge in Afghanistan.

    I respectfully submit that the CPUSA leadership would help foster mutual trust and clarity in the international Communist movement if it provided an Elucidation of its political position toward anti-imperialist solidarity and its commitment to basic signposts of historic Communist identity.

    Andrew W. Taylor
    winnipeg, canada
    Bethune-Penner Club

  • @Beth — good point! You gotta be in it to win it…as the jingle for the lottery goes. And you gotta be in it to help mobilize people at the grassroots around the issues, deepen understanding, experience and self-interest. too much of this criticism is demobilizing.

  • Also, while compromise shouldn’t be a dirty word, people have reason to be dissapointed when Democrats had a 60 vote majority in the senate for a year and still have majorities in both houses and a popular Democratic president, that more of the progressive agenda hasn’t been advanced. If the agenda isn’t advanced soon, the Democrats will face more losses in the upcoming elections.

  • Re

    Democrats such as Dennis Kucinich and Russel Feingold should be supported but not Max Baucus or Joseph Lieberman who was Al Gore’s running mate in 2000.

  • The CPUSA needs to show how Obama isn’t going far enough with economic relief and other issues and to discuss alternatives. Its all right to support the Democratic parties on some issues, but often the Democrats are reading from the same scripts as the Republicans and they shouldn’t be supported uncritically.

  • Webb seems to be making a strawman argument about the Left and Obama. Virtually the entire Left in America and much of the center is disapointed with the direction Obama has taken since taking office and with legitimate reasons. Criticising Obama for abandoning his campaign promises and giving in to the far right on many issues is not divisive and it does not mean dismissing the significance of Obama’s election. Progressives need to put pressure on Obama to push him towards the Left.

  • D. Bell – “I would argue that the conditions of the people are such that they themselves are questioning the system and looking for alternatives while carrying on the struggle. We are obligated to provide the answers.” — absolutely agree. It would be criminal not to.

    That’s why I think it’s an enormous error not to have a major focus on the relationship between the Democrats, Obama, and capital.

    We also need direct anti-capitalist agitation. People at health care rally I went to were themselves cheering at “we need a system that puts people over profits.” If they want it in health care, then why not generally? We need to make that argument.

  • Bruce,

    I absolutely do not disagree with your assessment of the imperative of the moment. Among other things we have a moral obligation to be immersed in the struggle. I don’t think it is an issue of priorities or a conflict of priorities to fight for ideology and class consciousness while fighting for immediate demands. I would argue that the conditions of the people are such that they themselves are questioning the system and looking for alternatives while carrying on the struggle. We are obligated to provide the answers.

    Even under the most extreme conditions communist parties have always included ideology and advanced positions alongside organizing for immediate reforms. Was it an accident that after the overthrow of Salazar in Portugal, the communist party and its press emerged as the most influential force in the country? It was a combination of commitment to the immediate and projecting the future. The communists were not the only force fighting for liberation but emerged as the strongest with the right combination of the present and the future.

    How can we not renew the fight for a peace dividend in the face of the administration and congress (republican and democrat) selling a bill of goods about a balanced budget in the face of a $700 billion defense budget? Talk about an obscenity. I don’t see injecting this into a struggle for jobs as a conflict of priorities. I think this will be a requirement in order todraw peace forces into the struggle.

  • Bruce I want to thank you for your comments directed
    at me. Basically I agree with you because I think your emphasis is correct. We will get left behind the mass movement trying to figure out the line of march before we become engaged.
    You mentioned Jobs for America Now Coalition, which is a formation created out of great suffering of the working class due to job loses and joblessness. We need to make sure that this Coalition is used at the local level to build a militant campaign for jobs and relief for the workers in our communities and we need to share these practical experiences with one another; reporting honestly on our progress and our mistakes.

  • Bruce,

    Again, I have no differences with the need to throw our forces into the jobs campaign at every level possible. I am doing that. However, your thoughtful remarks, some addressed to me, do not get to the basic question I continue to raise, what is the Communist Plus? We need to remember that our role in the 30s was not limited to work in coalitions, mass movements etc., but included an independent Party presence that raised advanced positions very much related to our mass work. There was a Party presence that was identified with our mass role and leadership. One problem our comrades face is recognition for the great work they do, but not being able to point to how the Party strategy differs from what is already on the agenda. Would we not make a qualitative difference if we raised the military budget as an obstacle to even modest reforms? Would this be divisive? I think not. It would begin to expose imperialism and draw people to our Party while fighting alongside them in day-to-day struggles. Would it be divisive to initiate intermediary forms that clearly move people into the Party? I think not, although initiative of this type has been discouraged. Where are the forms that people can move into as they develop ideologically?

    You state, “Our allies will be developed in the actual struggle, (although org’d labor and the 70-80 mass organizations that are part of the Jobs For America Now coalition are certainly already allies, based on this struggle and not on their subjective present attitudes toward socialism/capitalism). As well, however, it is here that people, in the midst of struggles, really develop real understanding of the system and how to fight it, as well as ultimate solutions.” The last sentence is precisely my point, it depends too much on spontaneity with no mention of our role. This cannot be done without a communist party routed in Marxism-Leninism. Understanding the system cannot be relegated to spontaneity. Are we ideologically and organizationally prepared to move people from point A to B ideologically and politically. I say “no” and that is the rub.

  • I have absolutely no difference with putting our main efforts into the jobs campaign. I am doing so in my community and in the independent political form in Philadelphia of which I am a member of the steering committee. My question remains, what is the Communist Plus or as some have said the added value of our commitment? What are we offering that will move the movement to a higher level or are we just bodies? What are we doing to build the Party? I would suggest that raising the military budget and the balance the budget hoax would make a qualitative difference in building a lasting movement. What is the relationship of a $700 billion defense budget to our economic stagnation?

    I have raised the question of our specific role many times on this site and no one has given an answer other than to assume that I only complain. What is our plan of work or are we to go it alone and then be criticized for not following line? I complain precisely because I am active in my community, my city, and my Party and am challenged to explain what is unique about the Party when we are competing with thousands of organizations for the minds of the people. I simply am asking for a reasonable discussion to answer why we are not growing in this period. Should not our policies (line) be viewed as a legitimate area of discussion? I have heard every imaginable reason, including “it’s just hard” but no suggestion that our policies need a major overhaul.

  • D. Bester you can say write my full name. I am not an anonymous communist. The leadership I accept is the leadership of the Communist Party. That is my right. No where in my remarks is Obama mentioned. To disagree with people is not to slander them.
    All I am saying is that those of us who are in the Party and who accept the current leadership of the Party have an obligation to become actively engaged in mass struggles in order to enhance our influence in those movements. Obviously this doesn’t apply to you because you don’t accept the leadership of the Party. It’s OK. You can go your way and we can go ours. Goodbye.

  • Frank C., when you talk about those who express substantive criticism of Obama as “people who want to determine the line of march from the sidelines” / “who want to keep bogged down in theoretical fine-tuning have no intention of doing anything” you lie and slander.

    You’re just parroting Webb’s straw man attack. But where’s the evidence that it is true?

    I’m someone who doesn’t think too much of Obama or the “transformative power” of Democrats, and I’m as active as my schedule (I work full time) allows.

    Why do you come out with this self-righteous attack? Is slandering other people on the left your idea of “building left unity”?

  • Leadership means absolutely nothing if you don’t accept it. The Campaign for Jobs and Relief to address the mass impoverishment of workers due to long term umemployment is what we need to be about right now. We don’t need to put all our eggs in one basket but on this issue and every other issue we need to become totally engaged in the existing mass struggles. Its not like we have to go out and organize the entire peoples movement. We just need to participate as communists in order to get our political insights appreciated.
    Here in St. Louis we are calling for and putting together a roundtable discussion of union leaders and leaders of community based working class organizations to began the work of organizing and mobilizing mass protest and emergency relief operations for the unemployed.
    We can never do all that we talk about doing but we can start talking about all that we are doing. This is the only way we can distinguish between those who talk about it and those who be about it. As Engles once said in the beginning was the deed.
    Those who want to keep bogged down in theoretical fine-tuning have no intention of doing anything but that as many of the posts demonstrate.
    Those who are carrying out the mass approach line of the party should become more vocal and not let the discussion be lead by people who want to determine the line of march from the sidelines.

  • I agree with Michael Scheinberg. He raises the real issue as to whether or not the Communist Party is ideologically and organizationally equipped to seriously impact the direction of the left and the broader peoples’ movements.

    Although I generally agree with Sam Webb’s analysis of the two main left trends, I am not understanding why we spend so much of our ideological time on the left attitudes towards Obama and so little on program based on our conclusions. Who are we talking to? It was not the left that spoke in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Virginia. I dare suggest that the differences in the left had little to do with the low voter turnout or the shift of many workers to the Republicans. It was the grass roots making decisions based on health care, jobs, and endless wars

    I agree with those calling for unity in the Party, but unity around what? What is our strategy? What is our leadership role? Who, but the Party, can lead on the question of an obscene defense budget? Who but the Party can lead on the question of balancing the budget and explaining the real effect of the deficit? Who but the Party can explain the deteriorating conditions among African-Americans? We have allowed the right to capture the debate on war, taxes, spending, and big government.

    Ideologically, we have become opportunistic, pragmatic. Witness our position on the relationship between single payer and the public option. Witness our hesitancy to constructively pressure the administration even after acknowledging differences. Witness our silence on the appointments of Gates, Clinton, Geitner because it was so early in Obama’s presidency. Witness the difficulty our friends and allies have distinguishing us from social democrats. Without the Communist Plus (a term not even used) we will continue to grow at a snails pace in this period of radicalization.

  • Yeah, well, apparently an important ally is a Democrat who thinks socialism is for lunatics, but not someone on the anti-capitalist left — even someone in the Party — who thinks that Obama acts in the interests of the capitalist system and US imperialism.

    The CP isn’t going to get anywhere other than to lower membership levels with this attitude.

  • i agree with bruce. bashing sam webb back and forth is counter productive and not serious constructive criticism. next week about 1 million of our fellow citizens r going to lose their unemployment ins. and cobra. let’s act now to stop this and keep building for a jobs bill. we need to put folks back to work (this is especially true among black american and latino american young people) we need to build that unity of all the democratic and progressive forces in a mass way that will carry our country into the next stage of progress. if we keep nit picking we will keep being disunited and the radical right ( financed by some sections of big capital) will get back in power in 2010 making it much more difficult to get any progress. further we need to find ways to link all this to ending the wars (listen to the very profound statement on this by of all people mayor daley) we may see more mayors and governors and others change their views because of the dialectics of history that r forcing a new look at every thing let’s keep the door open for new allies even the most unstable in solidarity jim

  • I’m puzzled by this contribution from top leadership of our party.

    Although he doesn’t straightforwardly make the assertion, as G.W. Bush did, “You are either with me or against me!”, this document seems to be a prelude to further polarization of the left.

    We are the party of left unity, and, as such, should be able to pitch a big enough tent to include differing progressive views. We should not trash each other and regress into name calling and blatant splitting.

    We need organization and unity and this article is antithetical to those goals.

    Although progressives recognize the great achievement in electing President Obama, the first African-American President in this country, we also recognize that being elected in this country means that the person is indebted to big money people.

    President Obama has done several progressive things and should be supported for those achievements.

    However, President Obama has done several things which are solely in the interest of the wealthy class. If the working class does not match the wealthy class in terms of pressure, then Obama has little choice but to continue to go right. This will make him appear to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing which will be recognized by all working people. The likely result will be a one term President unless he starts to speak for the working people and strives to defend their interests.

    This is where the CPUSA could play a major role. We can be instrumental in organizing the critical, but constructive response to Obama’s errors in policy. We can help lead the left in confronting the regressive components of Obama’s policies.

    I am also puzzled by party leadership’s position that the election of Obama has resulted in a better political playing field. So far, in one year of office, President Obama has succeeded in demoralizing and splitting the left while galvanizing the most extreme elements of the right wing. He has slightly less than three years to overcome these errors in order to be re-elected. My hope is that he can become a spokesperson for the majority of the population, the working people, and have some possibility of being re-elected. The alternative is truly frightening.

  • This straw man argument is a continuation of recent efforts to tap down any internal left opposition before the convention. Why aren’t these issues posed as questions for discussion instead of ideological gantlets, written as official positions of the General Secretary of the Communist Party? This only serves to set-up a situation that constrains honest and open discussion on the critical issues confronting the CPUSA. A leading comrade offering honest and sincere input that differs than that of Sam Webb, will now be seen as challenging the stated positions of the General Secretary. This is its intended to silence the left majority in the party. That is why with all the opportunities for organizing and growing the party right now and with the right-wing re-emerging and realigning, the CPUSA, through its General Secretary is attacking the left.

    Let’s hope, like it has before, that the CPUSA will self-correct. Unless action is taken at this convention to make the necessary strategic and organizational (read: leadership) changes, the party will continue its slow decline into irrelevancy. Without bottom-up intervention and correction at this convention, the great CPUSA may self-liquidate and become a communist party in name only and continue its slow descent into the centrist political abyss of the all-people’s front, never to lead the left again.

  • I am honestly curious as to whether Mr. Webb is on some kind stipend from the Democratic Party, or whether he is just a servile nebbish who has imprinted on the DP as a surrogate authority figure after the fall of the U.S.S.R. Of course, the two scenarios aren’t mutually exclusive.

  • In my opinion, criticizing President Obama is not the issue. I think that issue is a distraction, which by the way, has been raised over and over again by some in our party ad nauseam. As I see it, the real issue has been the lack of LEADERSHIP for the ORGANIZED fightback for the people’s needs by our Communist Party. And here I don’t mean the straw man issue of “going it alone” by our party. I mean the party ORGANIZED AS A PARTY, helping GIVE LEADERSHIP to the struggles for jobs, for health care, for stopping the war machine etc. Our communist leadership on these issues has been wanting to say the least. It has been whittled down to wishing, speculating, tailing, waiting, and sportscaster like commentary and analysis.

    In this commentary as in so many the past few years, I see nothing that can help our struggle or inspire the communists in our party to struggle. I see no class-clarity on the crisis our working class is now experiencing and with that no CONCRETE suggestions or plans of struggle for our party, that will help inspire a movement such as the one that helped elect President Obama to office. I see no ire directed at our dastardly class enemy. No sense of urgency to call all communists to battle for the peoples needs in the face of the current ruling class onslaught. An onslaught which shows no signs of easing, but of getting worse for our working class.

    Let’s put our energy and our focus into talking about the class struggle and how we AS A PARTY will offer our solutions, our vision, and how we AS A PARTY will play our important pivotal LEADERSHIP role in all of those struggles.

  • As one who has struggled in the civil rights, anti-war and labor movements for the past 45 years I think I speak with some”authority” when I say that the need for unity is greater now than ever before! However unity is never true unity when one must see basic principles set aside to appease those who “are not ready” for the social change that is sorely needed in our country!
    Specifically I refer to those so-called liberals who would not support the passage of Medicare For All/single payer healthcare. If one looks deep enough one will see that the primary reason has nothing to do with being “ready”. It has everything to do with how much bribe money (oops I meant campaign donations) they accepted from the HMO and other healthcare corporatists.

    Nowwhere in the Democratic (or Republican) party is it written and/or specifically addressed the non-acceptance of corporate bribes by candidates and/or elected officials! Given this fact and the recent ruling of the Supreme Court, we the people are in essence in the control of the corporate monster! (How far we wish to be dominated is the basic issue of this reply)

    I recall as a young member of the CPUSA in the ’70s that we were to build alliances with others and in doing this we would educate folks to be more accepting of socialism and our party. I see now that we are in the year 2010 some positive results of this strategy, but nowwhere near enough to have stopped Bush and other right wing extremists. Nowwhere do I see the so-called liberals who blindly follow the Democratic Party calling for real accountability from the White House or Congress. I keep hearing that “we should not criticize the president or democratic congressmen, because they are all we have now!” If that is so, then we are in deep trouble!

    The need for a third party has never been greater. However some folks have problems with change, yet they didn’t seem to have much problem with Bush stealing two elections, starting two unnecessary wars and his blatant disregard for International law and our Constitution!

    The bottom line change will not come about from any pooitical party that continues to accept bribes from the corporations. Change will only come about when people organize and demand change as we did back in the 60’s over civil rights! Expecting us to be complacent and accepting of the misdirection of the Democratic Party will lead us only to become further disenfranchised and maybe even disillusioned. How could that possibly be healthy for the Left or the people in general?

  • This analysis was on time and in time as my old friend Scott Douglass, from Birmingham, use to say. I, as a communist and African American, am really proud of how our Party is standing tall in this moment of truth when the most racist and fascist elements are trying to stir up a lynch fever against President Obama. No we should not try to reconfigurate the peoples movement against Obama! Who would that benefit? Racism is the old reliable dirt that the ruling class thinks it can throw in the eyes of white workers, blinding them to their true class. Like I said I for one am proud of our principled stand that sets us definitively apart from the political lynch mob daily fired up by the ultra right. Thanks Sam.

  • I agree with Joel W.

    Away with phony militancy — militancy for its own sake. Let’s just do the work of social change and majority-building.

    Jim, Warren, and Armando all hit on this same point I think.

    As for D. Bester’s comments: When so-called “bourgeois politics” is where the masses of people are focusing their attention, then yes, it is where we need to be focusing our attention too. Building true progressive and democratic majorities in popular thinking and action is the only way to move forward over the long term.

    I really don’t think that cherry-picking from Lenin’s writings about circa 1920s Britain or comparing Obama to Czar Nicholas II is an accurate way to assess our current political strategy or to decide if Obama is a “class enemy”.

    As for the two trends that Webb outlined, I’ll cast my lot with the one that is concerned with moving forward.

  • Amen! I’ll say it again. Amen!

  • I think it is time to leave behind the politics of militancy for its own sake, which really phony militancy. Building the broadest possible movement for change is the only way to go. I do not know why some leftists are so intent on preventing this from happening by forcing splits among labor and the democratic forces.

  • Webb’s commentary creates a straw man dichotomy between people who criticize Obama as a class enemy, who are supposed to be inactive, ultra-militant, separated from the masses, etc. and those who “believe that criticism should be constructive and unifying” who somehow are able to accomplish more (what they’ve done that’s so great isn’t mentioned).

    Question: how can you express “constructive and unifying criticism” when substantive criticism along Marxist lines apparently means being labeled as “ultra-radical”?

    Question: is it appropriate for the Chairman of the Communist Party to disparage “militant minorities” filled with “moral outrage”? Who are the historical analogies, the abolitionists? Most communists?

    Question: Don’t we as communists have better things to do than argue over bourgeois politics. Did Lenin spend his time trying to divine whether the latest comments of Nikolai II and his ministers could lead to broad left-center unity in the struggle for reforms?

    Didn’t he write in Left Wing Communism that the British communists should support Labor’s Henderson only in order to “support him as the rope supports the hanged man”?

    As Bertrand Russell put it: “He thinks that, if Mr. Henderson, for instance, were to become Prime Minister, nothing of importance would be done; organized Labour would then, so he hopes and believes, turn to revolution. On this ground, he wishes his supporters in this country to do everything in their power to secure a Labour majority in Parliament; he does not advocate abstention from Parliamentary contests, but participation with a view to making Parliament obviously contemptible.”

    Why does Webb stress the “democratic/reform potential” of the Democrats, who aren’t even an explicitly Labor party ala British Labour when Lenin was writing?

  • Though I can’t put my finger on the exact quote, I think Ben Franklin said “between the fire brigade and the fire there is no compromise.” I think Sam Webb’s picture could use a little bit more of this perspective. If we don’t recognize that some right wing positions are flat out mean and will never ever empathize with working people, then we’ll forever be toyed with. Sam is right that managing trends is the critical goal, and pressure from the bottom is the critical tool. I personally think that sometimes trends have to be shifted with a sledge hammer. Then, if the idea is righteous, the mass of people will appreciate it. The right wing never would have compromised their way to social security. Political leadership had to do it, and hand it to the country and, to tell the truth, be rough with opponents until the thing was done. The truest thing Sam Webb said is “I think it is obvious where I stand. Thanks.


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