In response to Daniel Rubin’s article, “On critics from the ‘left’” (PWW, 6/18-24), I agree with his statement that it is important to avoid misstatements of facts and sweeping characterizations that are not supported by evidence. Unfortunately, his article displays those very flaws.
Rubin indiscriminately lumps together all critics of the Communist Party’s draft program, implying that they all have the same views and have all misstated facts and made sweeping characterizations.
Rubin writes, “The most important difference is revealed in the proposal to return to the previous program.” Perhaps some critics of the draft have advocated that, but I think most have said we should develop a program that retains more of the best features of the old program.
Personally, I think there are some good things in the draft program. For example, I think it is very good that, unlike our current program, it explicitly speaks in support of gay and lesbian rights. I also think the analysis of the ultra-right is generally good.
However, I think that, compared to our current program, there are some serious omissions and weaknesses. For example, unlike our current program, the draft program does not say one word about the Jewish people or anti-Semitism. The anti-monopoly program in the draft is much weaker than in our current program. For instance, unlike our current program, the draft does not call for nationalization of key industries.
Rubin asserts, “While saying they are for defeating the ultra-right, the critics reject this strategy….” Again, that is the kind of sweeping characterization that Rubin correctly criticizes. As a critic of the draft program, I cannot help wondering: If I really rejected the strategy of defeating the ultra-right, why did I spend five to eight hours a day working in the Democratic Party’s campaign office?
Rubin says, “Apparently the critics severely doubt the possibility of a ‘peaceful transition’” to socialism. Speaking for myself, I do not doubt the possibility of a peaceful transition, but I do question its likelihood.
There is a difference. Our current program says, “The entire history of the United States demonstrates it is naive to think that monopoly capital would be restrained by constitutional scruples from resorting to violence to stop even the most democratic majority mandate for a socialist solution. No ruling class has ever voluntarily relinquished its power.” I think that is true.
Rubin denies that the draft has a classless approach to democracy, but I think that, compared to our current program, it does. For example, our current program says, “A socialist government would … outlaw the dissemination of racism, chauvinism, anti-Semitism, religious or national hatred and incitement to war or violence.” Why is that not stated in the draft program?
Rubin writes, “On our attitude toward the Bill of Rights, all nine party program editions since World War II have called it a popular achievement to build on under socialism, as distinguished from anti-democratic aspects of our history.” No one is denying that the Bill of Rights was a popular achievement to be built on under socialism. That is not the point of contention. The point of contention is the formulation “Bill of Rights Socialism.” It is interesting to note that Rubin points to all nine party programs since World War II — without acknowledging that none of them used the formulation “Bill of Rights Socialism.”
Rubin argues that to say that the U.S. Bill of Rights is part of a bourgeois-democratic document is to “dismiss” it. That does not logically follow. I think most Marxists would agree, for example, that the American and French Revolutions were bourgeois-democratic revolutions. Does that mean that we dismiss their importance? Of course not.
In his implicit defense of the formulation “Bill of Rights Socialism,” Rubin cites the “third law of dialectics, the ‘negation of the negation,’ showing that development is not circular but progressive.” But what he seems to ignore is another law of dialectics, that quantitative changes eventually produce qualitative changes. Socialism is qualitatively different from capitalism, and a socialist constitution will naturally be qualitatively different from a bourgeois-democratic constitution. Using our bourgeois-democratic Bill of Rights to describe socialism obscures that fact. Saying that in no way dismisses the fact that bourgeois democracy was a great leap forward in history.
It would be helpful if supporters of the formulation “Bill of Rights Socialism” would explain what they think it means. Does it mean that a socialist constitution will enumerate rights? Of course it will. Every socialist constitution has done that.
Does it mean that socialism in the U.S. will be more democratic than socialism elsewhere because we have had a bourgeois-democratic Bill of Rights for 216 years? If so, I think that is chauvinistic. In fact, I think a strong argument could be made that most West European countries are more democratic than the U.S. Certainly, workers have more rights in most West European countries than in the U.S. (e.g., the right to paid vacations).
Yes, let us avoid misstatements of facts and sweeping generalizations, but that admonition should apply to both critics and defenders of the draft program.
Kevin Kyle is a PWW reader in Illinois.