What the Communist Partys draft program is all about

At the heart of a communist party program are questions of strategy. Why? Because strategy matters — big time! Tactics yes, organizing skills yes, militancy yes, but in the end, strategy is the locomotive that sets the other cars, including the beloved caboose, in motion.

All the creative tactics, righteous militancy, and innovative organizing techniques in the world will not shift the balance of class and social forces in a progressive and left direction, will not enable progressive and left people to move from the politics of protest to the politics of power, unless they are fastened to sound strategic positions.

By the same token, ill-advised strategic choices, no matter how militant and tactically clever, can lead (and have led) to long-lasting defeats and political isolation.

Which brings me to the Communist Party’s draft program. In first specifying the immediate and longer-range objectives of the class struggle and then identifying the main forces that have to be assembled for social progress, and the main class and social forces blocking that progress at each stage of struggle, it does what a party program should do — it provides a general strategic path for near- and longer-term struggles.

In a nutshell:

• It singles out the Bush administration as the main obstacle to social progress, and the struggle against it as the main form of the class struggle at this moment;

• It argues that the ruling class isn’t one undifferentiated, homogenous social class;

• It makes the point that differences exist between the two major parties without suggesting that the Democratic Party is (or can transform itself into) a people’s anti-corporate party;

• It recognizes the emergence of a broad, loosely constructed, people’s movement which possesses the potential power to go on a counteroffensive against the Bush administration;

• And it goes to great lengths to spell out the main social and class forces that have to be assembled to defeat the extreme right, and then reassembled at each succeeding stage of struggle, including the socialist stage.

At the center of this assembly of forces is the multiracial, multinational, male/female, young and old working class. And to the working class the program couples the national and racially oppressed, women and youth.

Together, they are what I call the “core constituencies” of the all people’s front, a designation that acknowledges that the participation of these social forces in the broader people’s front is a necessary condition for victory at every stage of struggle. Remove any one of them from the mix and the prospects for winning are not simply greatly dimmed, but doomed.

Around them are gathered other diverse social movements whose interests and issues of struggle ally them with these core constituencies.

While the draft program resists the idea that the working class on its own has the political capacity to bring its class opponents to its knees, it doesn’t minimize its strategic power nor occlude the Marxist insight that the working class, because of its interests and political capacities is best positioned to emerge as the general leader of the broader democratic movement.

Implicit in all this is the notion that there is no direct, smooth path to socialism nor a “Great Revolutionary Day” when the economy breaks down, the workers suddenly revolt and seize power, and the state, economy and civil society are “smashed” and remade in one swoop.

Some readers may think that is a caricature, but such utopian ideas have always had some currency in the communist and left movements. Lenin characterized them as infantile. Drawing on the experience of the Bolshevik party that he led over two decades, he said the struggle for socialism goes through different stages and phases during which the configuration of contending class and social forces changes, requiring, in turn, new strategic policies to match the new alignment of political forces and the new level of political consciousness of tens of millions.

More than a decade later, Georgi Dimitrov, then leader of the Communist International, made similar arguments to an international meeting of communists. The difference this time was that fascism was gathering its forces in Germany, Italy and elsewhere. That made it all the more imperative that communists shed themselves of simplistic concepts of the revolutionary process like “class against class,” skipping intermediate stages of struggle, and countering every demand of their coalition partners with a demand that is twice as radical. The whole thrust of his report was an impassioned plea against “self-satisfied sectarianism,” an attitude and practice that was content to take good formal positions and hive itself away in organizational forms detached from the main organizations of the working class and people, and tone deaf to the actual dynamics of the class struggle.

Our draft program avoids these political pitfalls and instead outlines strategic policies that are embedded in existing political, economic, and cultural realities and sculpted to influence broad social currents. It’s deserving of a serious and lively discussion.

Sam Webb (swebb@cpusa.org) is national chair of the Communist Party USA. This article is based on remarks at a recent meeting of the party’s New York district. The full text and the party’s draft program appear at www.cpusa.org.