The old adage, “The course of true love ne’er runs smooth," may be well applied to the course of the “History of the Communist Movement in America." We are prompted to this conclusion after attending a lecture on the above subject, given by the National Secretary of the Proletarian Party on. Nov. 30, 1929. We heard a lengthy discourse dealing with the formation of the Communist Party of America, and the various intrigues on the part of different groups in their efforts to gain control of that organination. Of small interest to us is the claim made by the Proletarian Party to being the "real communist movement" in America. Seeing that they receive no recognition from the Third International, we cannot see how they substantiate this. Of more importance to us is their claim to being a Marxian organization equipped with an almost complete monopoly of Marxism. It is on this point that we base our criticism.
We have endeavored to obtain a definite program or declaration of principles by them but have failed to find anything of the sort in their official organ, “The Proletarian.” We are therefore compelled to look mainly to the verbal utterances of their speakers. The nearest we can arrive at anything resembling a program is a series of statements made by their National Secretary at the afore' mentioned lecture. He pointed out that the Proletarian Party stands for “Dictatorship of the Proletariat," the setting up by armed insurrection of some sort of “Workers’ Government;" also that they “realize the limitations of Parliamentary action." Being anxious to know, we questioned their speaker as to what these limitations consisted of. In reply, he premised an imaginary condition that a substantial majority of the working class having become conscious of the need for taking over the means of wealth production, and establishing Socialism, express their desires by the vote, and are met with resistance by the capitalist class in the form of military force. Therefore the workers will be compelled to organize a counter military force to enforce their desires. For proof of this their speaker asserted that the Army and Navy are officered by bourgeois and therefore would be used by the capitalist class against the working class.
Had our ultra-Marxists of the Proletarian Party an understanding of the basic principle of Socialism, the Materialistic Conception of History, as they claim to have, they would realize that, the economic conditions of capitalism having evolved to a point at which a substantial majority of the working class have reached an understanding of Socialism, the Army and Navy forces would also be imbued with the same ideology as the civil population, since the immense majority of those forces including the officers are members of the working class. They would be poor material for the capitalists to rely upon to prevent the intelligent working class from asserting its will. However, the working class has not as yet voted for Socialism; until it does we cannot formulate any utopian detailed plans for dealing with an imaginary condition in the future.
We were further told that the Communist Party in Russia is carrying toward completion, and in the same spirit, the movement begun by the Paris Commune in 1871. Both the Communist Party of America and the Proletarian Party in making this claim are either ignorant of the conditions obtaining in Paris during the few short months of the Commune, or they are deliberately distorting the facts concerning conditions existing in Soviet Russia which is a resort to the old time method of all political forces of reaction.
As far back as 1920 we find this quotation in an article, “The Dictatorship of the Proletariat," by N. Bucharin, published in the “Workers Dreadnought" (April 12, 1920).
“Nevertheless we do not for a moment deny that our apparatus is rigidly centralized; that our policy towards the bourgeoisie and towards the parties of the compromising Socialists is repressive in character; that the organization of our own party, as a ruling party which exercises a dictatorship through the Soviets, is of a 'Militarist type.’ “This is a direct negation of the claim made by the official and unofficial communists of America, that the “Dictatorship of the Proletariat" in Russia represents control by the masses. It is the position maintained by the Blanquists prior to the Paris Commune, and which they were compelled to abandon and act directly contrary to, during the tenure of the Commune. In the introduction to the “The Civil War in France,” (S. L. P. ed.) Engels points out that:
“The members of the Commune were divided into a majority of Blanquists, who had also predominated in the central committee of the National Guard, and a minority, which consisted for the most part of members of the International Working Men‘s Association, who were adherents of the Proudhonian school of Socialism."Engels then goes on to show how both the Blanquists and Proudhonists did the very reverse of which their schools advocated, thus:
"The Blanquists fared no better. Brought up in the school of conspiracy, held together by the rigid discipline essential to it, they started from the conception that a comparatively small number of resolute, well organized men would be able not only to grasp the helm of State at a favorable moment, but also, through the display of great energy, and reckless daring, to hold it as long as required, that is, until they had succeeded in carrying the masses of the people into the revolutionary current and ranging them around the small leading band. To accomplish this, what was necessary, above all else, was the most stringent, dictatorial centralization of all powers in the hands of the new revolutionary government. And what did the Commune do, which in the majority consisted of these very Blanquists? In all its proclamations to the French people in the provinces, it called upon them for a free federation of all French communes with Paris for a national organization, which for the first time was to be the real creation of the nation. The army, the political police, the bureaucracy, all those agencies of oppression in a centralized government, which Napoleon had created in 1798, and which since then every new government had gladly used and kept up as ready weapons against its enemies, were to be abolished everywhere, as they had been abolished in Paris.”To compare the above condition existing during the Paris Commune, to that existing in Russia, one would have to be a wish thinker like the members of the official Communist Party of America and the unofficial “real" communists of the Proletarian Party. The Red Army has not been abolished, neither has the bureaucracy nor the political police. Witness the rise of the Opposition groups and the wholesale expulsion and exile of many of those prominent early in the Russian Revolution. Is this analogous to the Paris Commune?
Again let us look at Paris during the Commune, to see the attitude of the Communards towards parliamentary action and the value of the vote. According to Engels the Commune "filled all positions of administration, justice, and instruction, through election by universal suffrage, the elected being at all times subject to recall by their constituents" (op. cit.), a system which our “communist" friends would mistake for bourgeois democracy. Engels' concept of the “Dictatorship of the Proletariat” is also expressed in the conclusion to the same work, page 20, “ . . . look at the Paris Commune. That was the dictatorship of the proletariat.” The conditions existing in Russia bear little resemblance to those obtaining in Paris during the Commune. Neither, for that matter, do they resemble the conditions in America, England or any other developed capitalist countries. In Russia, where primitive peasant agriculture prevails, the institution of Socialism is at present an impossibility, because there is lacking the highly developed productive forces and the enlightened proletarian majority, both of which axe necessary for that purpose. Where matured capitalism exists and where the workers are therefore the majority of the population, they can achieve their emancipation as soon as they understand what Socialism is and desire it, and they will effect this by the simplest, and in fact, the only means available—the democratic conquest of the political forces of society—at present used for their subjection.
“He who tells the people revolutionary legends, he who amuses them with sensational stories, is as criminal as the geographer who would draw up false charts for navigators.” (Lissagaray, preface to History of the Commune.)
Socialist Educational Society