Democracy is of great concern to all progressive activists. We need to pay the greatest attention to internal democracy.
Elementary Points on Democracy
by Jim Lane, Texas
To begin with, the Communist Party is an absolute necessity for the future of humanity. The working class is the only class that can confront and overcome capitalism. Without the deliberate leadership of the Communist Party, the class is rudderless and lost, and so is the human race.
For two reasons, Communist democracy is a fundamental component of a successful party. In the first place, almost all of us are volunteers, and volunteers will not stay where they are not respected and have no say-so. We are not mindless mercenaries, but thoughtful people who commit, and re-commit almost daily, to a party that is responsive to us. If we have no role in guiding the party, we will become alienated and give up.
The second reason is even more important. To overcome capitalism and brighten humanity’s future, the working class, led by Communists, must take power. No one, and especially no American, would want to see an undemocratic party come to power. An undemocratic party in power is little more than a repugnant dictatorship.
So, in the process of taking power and also in being in power, the Communist Party must take pains to practice democracy.
In recent years, I have become more and more concerned about what I view as an erosion of party democracy. Certainly there are reasons for it. The implosion of the Soviet Union dismayed many. The crisis of capitalism has created all kinds of major shifts in the world movement. Factionalism is rampant. The internet has tested and strained organizational norms.
For an example, let’s look back a few years. Comrades were asked to participate in decision making and to carry out the decisions of the majority, even if they had voted in the minority. Disciplined and serious comrades did just that, and those in the minority had very little recourse anyway except to wait for the next convention discussion period and state their disagreements. Today, any individual comrade disagreeing with any aspect of the party’s decisions or activities can, if he/she is technically capable, immediately raise a ruckus that can be worldwide! The destructive ability of factional individuals has exploded!
Our party was originally based on the successful Russian model where, it was strongly argued, a single newspaper expressed the general decisions of the party. Today we have no newspaper, and there are 30-40 web sites and many more social media sites claiming to represent our party’s view. Outside the party, there are several anti-communist technical experts masquerading as Communists and doing their best to tear the workers’ movement to pieces!
The internet is truly an overall blessing for the workers’ movement, but it makes big holes in old organizational norms.
Not only can factional individuals tear the fabric of the party, but leadership, too, cuts corners with democracy. What we need is a strong but flexible constitution that takes heed of the present technological situation. We need all members, including leadership, to stick to the party’s program and organizational integrity. We need to put democracy at the forefront of our organization.
To that end, here are some specific ideas for consideration:
1. We must re-affirm that the Communist Party convention is the highest governing body of the party. Barring emergency situations, no individual nor leadership body should set out to make major changes to the party except openly, in front of everyone, during convention discussion. On a personal note, I’ve waited almost four years to say this, because I did not want to participate in ongoing factionalism.
2. We need to re-institute accounting for dues, or we need to find some other objective way to determine who is a member in good standing and who is not. How can a party govern itself when it has no idea who its members are? Will anyone in 2014 be able to say with conviction that the chosen delegates truly represent the membership?
3. We need a reasonable way to elect leadership. The present system of presenting a long slate to delegates who could not possibly know all the proposed leaders, and then requiring that we vote at least for a large percentage of them, is a mockery. Delegates to our conventions should have a way to know the people they vote for. Consequently, a much smaller ballot at the convention is a requirement for democracy.
4. The relationship of individuals to clubs, clubs to districts, and districts to national must be better defined. One approach might be to centralize a lot more of the communications and accounting, while leaving districts and clubs flexible in applying our political program.
5. Proposed convention resolutions should be treated with respect. The resolutions report at the 2010 convention was just a mess, and the Texas resolutions weren’t even mentioned.
6. Every web site associated with our party should be hosted by the party so that continuity of our communications to the public is better insured. “Official” sites that use their own hosting service can turn against us at will, with vast repercussions. As it stands today, some “official” sites are hosted by national CPUSA, and others aren’t. It would be good if club or district web sites were “syndicated” the way all the AFL-CIO sites are, so that national communications can appear alongside local ones.
The organization of the party is of vital concern to all of us, all the time.