We are recirculating a work by S. Tsirul that was published by the Central Committee of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) in September 1932. The contents of the article originally appeared in Volume 9 No. 15 of the magazine Communist International. We are reprinting this piece primarily due to its valuable insights into the relationship between American Communists and the principle of criticism/self-criticism. The CPUSA was ultimately a Party that vulgarized and distorted this principle, particularly during the Browder period — which this piece was written at the beginning of. Hence the importance of studying and evaluating this work, critically assessing it for weaknesses and shortcomings, and drawing from its strengths.
Self-criticism is a cornerstone of the scientific method. Without it, scientific observation quickly degrades into simple projection and/or zealous posturing. It should be of no surprise, then, that self-criticism is extremely important to Marxism. Marx and Marxist theorists emphasize its necessity time and time again. Any party desiring to be the vanguard of the working class, being the intended ideological heart of the revolutionary masses, must be committed to Marxism as a science: dynamic and ever-developing.
As such, the vanguard party must be vehemently steeped in criticism and self-criticism. As Marxists, we must ruthlessly criticize everything. A favorite motto of Marx himself was “doubt everything”. This principle, like all principles of communism, was observed in the development of material conditions and revolutionary circumstances. The first theater for a successful proletarian revolution, Tsarist Russia, was certainly no exception to this. The Bolsheviks understood self-criticism well enough that they were able to oust reactionary elements from their ranks, and determine when their party line was faulty. As a result, they were not caught in the trap of chauvinism, anarchism, reformism, and all the other counterrevolutionary trends that besieged the proletariat.
In this way, the Bolsheviks developed a dynamic relationship with the Russian proletariat, and refined praxis allowed them to lead the proletariat in revolutionary circumstances. This relationship simultaneously allowed the Bolsheviks to dominate the Russian Soviets, and draft a Soviet Government committed to the building of socialism. Shortly, in the following article, we will analyze the role of self-criticism in the foundation and preservation of a Bolshevik Party.
The Practice of Bolshevik Self-Criticism
How the American Communist Party Carries Out Self-Criticism and Controls Fulfillment of Decisions
By S. Tsirul
The [CPUSA] has scored several political successes during last year. It led a number of great strikes, including the miners’ strike in Pittsburg in the summer, which continued for fully three months, the Kentucky strike last winter, etc. The Communist Party is putting up strenuous resistance to the capitalist attack upon the living standards of the working masses, organizing the workers for the fight. It is the only organizer and leader of the great masses of the unemployed in the struggle for an improvement of their situation, for State insurance, for unemployed benefits. It organized and led the unemployed “hunger march” in December 1931. It was in charge of the unemployed demonstration in Detroit last spring. The Communist Party alone has rendered effective assistance to the war veterans in their action. It alone is conducting a real campaign against the preparation for a new world war, and intervention against the U.S.S.R. The Communist Party alone points the revolutionary way out of the crisis to the toiling masses. As a result, the influence of the Party over the toiling masses of America grows. Unfortunately, the Communist Party or America, like the Communist Parties or a number of other capitalist countries, has not yet learned to consolidate its political influence over the masses organizationally. This inability frequently negates the political achievements which the Party has secured by its work. It cannot be said, however, that the Party is unaware of this fact. The Party, as represented by its leading staff, knows its weaknesses, and frequently criticizes the defects of its work in the most pitiless manner, yet the situation has not improved in the least. At every Plenum of its [Central Committee or CC] there is the broadest and most merciless self-criticism. But this self-criticism is very frequently unaccompanied by the preparation and realization of those concrete measures necessary to eliminate the defects criticized. The comrades frequently appear like penitent sinners in their self-criticism. After indulging in criticism of their work, they feel satisfied, and everything continues as before. The results of such self-criticism are just the contrary of what was expected of it and against which the Party organizations were warned by the CC of the [Communist Party of the Soviet Union or CPSU], which pointed out in its statement on self-criticism (June 1928) that without concrete measures designed to improve the work “the slogan of criticism and self-criticism develops into a scrap of paper, which merely compromises this slogan, the Party leadership, and the Party itself in the eyes of the masses.”
Self-criticism is not an aim in itself, as some comrades think, but only a means towards an end. It must be very closely linked up with the other method of Bolshevist work, control of the execution of decisions. No serious improvement of the work is possible without a well-organized control of fulfillment of decisions. At the same time it is necessary to say that while the method of self-criticism has been fully adopted by the Communist Party of America, it has not yet given any thought to the serious organization of control of execution of decisions. Therein lies the weakness of the Party.
The discrepancy between extensive self-criticism and the complete absence of any control of fulfillment of decisions appears most strikingly in the organizational field, leading to the organizational backwardness of the Party. We shall therefore touch upon several questions of the organizational work of the Party which constitute the weakest spots in its work. These questions are: (1) The condition and work of the Party cells and the work of the Party in the factories generally; (2) the growth of the Party and the fluctuations of its membership; (3) the work of the Party apparatus and the struggle against bureaucracy. On the basis of an analysis of the condition of these sections of the work, we shall attempt to make a few critical observations regarding the work of the [CPUSA] from the point of view of the connection between words and deeds, between decisions adopted and their execution.
One can frequently read in the Party press of the [CPUSA], in the speeches of the leading comrades, in the resolutions of the Party that “every factory is a stronghold of Communism.” Hence, the Party not only appreciates the importance of this work but takes measures to improve it. Is this so? One of the indications of an improvement of the work in the factories must be a growth in the number of factory cells. For a number of years, the Party not only has not moved forward on this question but has even definitely regressed. Thus, in 1927, the [CPUSA] had 166 factory cells; in 1928, 111; in 1930, 133; in 1931, 125 (according to other data, 75), while the number of street cells has remained relatively stable or has even increased (468 street cells in 1928 and 528 at the end of 1931).
Perhaps there has been a serious improvement lately, after the XIII Plenum, when the work of the Party, especially in the factories, was subjected to the most scathing criticism? The Party Organizer, the organizational journal of the Party, wrote after the Plenum (No. 8-9) that:
“The slogan ‘every factory a stronghold of Communism’ characterized the political line and decisions adopted at the end of August by the Plenum of our [CC]. The significance of this Plenum to the whole Party, and primarily to the American working class, consists of a clear recognition on the part of our C.C. of the necessity of concentrating the entire work of the Party upon the task of penetration of the key industries and biggest factories of the country.”
Comrade Browder, in the report of the C.C. at the Plenum, criticizing the weaknesses of the Party work, stated that:
“If at this Plenum we do not succeed in bringing about a sharp and profound change in the direction of penetration of the shops the whole future of our Party is in danger.” (Emphasis — S.T.).
“We mean that the task of this Plenum is to begin such a serious and fundamental transformation of our whole Party life, a change of our whole approach to our work, a change in our hour-to-hour and day-to-day methods of work, a change in our organizational practice, a change so complete and so deep-going that the entire Party from top to bottom and the working class around our Party will shake with the realization that this change is going on.” (The Communist, No. 9, 1931.)
It is hardly possible to speak more self-critically. It might have been expected that after this, a change in the work of the Parry would really develop; that an extensive discussion would be held in the Party on the contents, forms, and methods of work in the factories; that the Party would outline the main points upon which to concentrate its attention; that the responsible workers of the Party would go to the factories and mills to see what was doing there, to help organize the work or the factory cells. Also that the Party magazine would begin to publish information on the work in the factory; that the Daily Worker would give serious attention to the situation of the working masses in the different factories, the number of worker correspondents to the paper would increase; the network of factory newspapers would grow; recruiting into the Party would be shifted to the factories; a change would take place in the work of the trade unions in the sense of shifting- the attention to the factories.
However, no serious practical discussion or suggestion of concrete steps has taken place in the Party. “The Party Organizer” has not published a single article after the Plenum (or before it for that matter) dealing with some definite case of the work of this or that factory cell. Moreover, the magazine has suspended publication, apparently owing to a lack of material. Neither do we see any turn, in the direction of the factories, on the part of The Daily Worker either! The responsible workers of the Party continue, as before, to give the factories a wide berth, do not know what is doing there, how the cells work, or whether they exist at all.
What has been said above may be confirmed by the following characteristic fact. The report of the Party CC to the XIII Plenum declared that the Party had 125 factory cells with 1,025 Party members. During the period up to the XIV Plenum, another 100 factory cells were created according to the report of the CC to the Plenum. The total, however, amounted to only 175. What happened to the other fifty cells? Apparently they disappeared during this period. The comrades attempted to explain to the Plenum that the said fifty cells existed only on paper. Is there any guarantee that the new cells do not exist on paper as well? Have the comrades any knowledge of their real existence, have they seen these cells? Judging by the discussion at the Plenum, the leading workers of the Party do not visit the cells, have never seen them, and do not know what they are doing. Yet this is not at all such a very complicated affair. There are up to 250 members of regional committees of the Party alone, not to speak of the district committees, which together with the members of the CC, constitutes about 300 people. Had each one of these familiarized [themselves] with only one factory cell there would not be enough cells to go around. Had each one of the members of the [CC] and regional committees worked in only one cell, had they been responsible for the condition of the work in one factory, had they kept the [CC] or regional committee informed on the work of the cell and on the state of affairs in that factory, the [CC] and the regional committees would not only know how many real (rather than paper) cells, the Party has, but also what they are doing, what impedes their work. Yet the comrades have not thought of such a simple thing.
It was necessary to wait for the XIV Plenum, to decide this question. Whether this decision will be carried into effect, whether it will not fare as many of the previous derisions, the future will show.
If the Party leadership does not know the exact number of its cells, the situation in regard to the content of the work of the cells is no better. What the cells do in their everyday work, what questions they discuss at their meetings, the leading organs of the Party do not know, and do not discuss from a practical point of view. The minutes of the meetings of the cells, which are sent to the higher Party bodies, give some, even if incomplete, idea of the work of the cells, particularly of the cell meetings. But obviously, they are not sufficiently studied by the Party centers. Otherwise, we should have seen some attempt to analyze the contents of the cell meetings, some suggestions on this point. We shall, therefore, endeavor to do this. True, we have a very limited number of cell minutes at our disposal, but they are sufficient to offer an idea of what the Party cells of the [CPUSA] occupy themselves with.
In the minutes of one of the cell meetings of January 21, 1932, we read:
“B. and R. are elected to find a hall for a Lenin memorial meeting. A committee to help decorate the hall is elected.”
An agitprop letter read:
Comrade R. is directed to read a recruiting article at the next meeting.
R. and B. are appointed to sell the Lenin number of the Daily Worker.
E. resumed Daily Worker subscription for four months.
B. elected industrial organizer.
R. elected Negro organizer.
N. and E.L. elected delegates to an unemployed united front conference.
E.L., L.R., B. to help organize [International Labor Defense or ILD] meeting, January 24.
Here are the minutes of the same cell of January 28, 1932:
“A CC communication regarding the bulletin read and discussed. Decided to issue next bulletin February 5.
Question of recruitment campaign discussed, J. I. declaring he has two connections.
[Trade Union Unity League or TUUL] question discussed.
Report by B. on the united front policy in the work among the unemployed. He also reported on February 4 demonstration.
Report and debate on ILD Case of S. and G. decided for February 2.
Work in the factories. All members connected with trade unions must work among the unemployed, help disseminate unemployment insurance petition and support demonstration February 4.
Organization of cell discussed.
Question of factory bulletin discussed.
T. to draw up letter to C.C. in reply to letter received from D.
Question of Y.C.L. discussed.
Letter received from Secretary read and discussed.”
The minutes of other cells closely resemble the above.
Three things rivet the eye when reading the minutes of the cells. Firstly, the large number of questions on the agenda. Apparently, our comrades (like true Americans) strictly respect the traditional proverb, “Time is Money.” We, too, believe in American efficiency, but we do not find it — in the work of the cells. There is much routine, officiousness, bureaucracy. The minutes quoted are marked, not so much by practicality as by the spirit of pure business. When ten to fifteen questions are discussed at one Party meeting no serious discussion is possible. The result is not a Party meeting, but something like the office hours of some [businessperson]. Reports of different officials are heard, orders are issued and the meeting is closed. It is not surprising, therefore, that there is no real Party life in the cells, no political discussion of the burning questions of the day. Some comrades maintain that political discussions take place only in cases of fractional struggles in the cells of the [CPUSA]. This statement is not entirely unfounded. The minutes do not give any indication of decisions adopted on the questions discussed, of measures to carry out this or that work. The meetings have an exceedingly dry, bureaucratic character.
The second thing that strikes the eye in reading the minutes of the cell is the stereotyped manner of discussing questions: the same questions are discussed at different cells, at different times and places. This is further proof of the bureaucratic methods of the work of the cells. The cells live and work according to orders from above. They have no special local questions, they do not bother with them. The leadership of the cells is strictly centralized and cut off from actual life. For this reason, the cell meetings are tedious and uninteresting.
Finally, the third peculiarity of the cell meetings consists in the extremely narrow, organizational character of the questions discussed, of the large number of petty organization questions; there are no political questions, no questions of mass work, of the work in the factory. No concrete problems are discussed at the cell meetings, which consist almost completely of statements by different persons responsible for this or that branch of the work. Is it surprising, after all this, that recent new members in the Party quit, after a few of these meetings? They joined the Party, in the hope of taking part in the political life; instead of this, they hear dry, formal reports, are given subscription lists to collect contributions, and newspaper to be distributed — and this is all. This cannot satisfy these people, who are anxious for political activity.
How are we to explain this situation? Firstly, by the fact that the leading organs and workers of the Party give little attention to what the Party cells are doing. The cells themselves frequently do not know what to do, have no definite objective. They are accustomed to waiting for orders from above, from the center, which is not connected with the locality and does not know the actual situation there. Besides, the view is generally held in the Party that the discussion of political affairs, the decision of different problems is the province of the higher Party bodies, while the business of the cells is to sell newspapers and organize various collections. Finally, the organizational structure of the cells and their entire work impede their activity also. The members of the cells do not know the object of their work, they do not carry on their Party work where they are constantly employed, but in the district where they live, and devote themselves to artificially-created objects.
The Party members working in the factories do not carry on their Party work in their factory. The position of those belonging to street cells is no better. The street cells in the [CPUSA] are not built according to where the member of the cell live (as would appear to be most normal and natural), but along much more complex lines. The members of a district are divided up in groups of twenty to twenty-five persons. These groups are called street cells. Each group has a definite section to tend regardless of whether the members of the group live in the particular section or not. Thus, neither the members of the factory cells nor those of the street cells are directly connected with those working masses among whom they are obliged to conduct Party work, do not know the conditions of life and work of these masses. Is there anything surprising in that they are detached from the masses under this system of work? Some comrades maintain that this system of street cells existed up to 1930, but has since been altered. Possibly, in some places, this situation has really been changed, but the position remains unaltered in most.
As far back as the beginning of 1931 the Party made a decision to concentrate the entire work in several of the most important regions, districts, and factories, to establish bases there from which to move on. This was a perfectly correct decision. The measures taken on this question, however, have a fortuitous character. Obviously, the Party leadership does not check up the fulfillment of decisions adopted. One of the leading Party workers stated that the CC adopts dozens of resolutions, sometimes good resolutions, but that no one knows what happens to them after their adoption. If 10 to 12 percent. of the decisions adopted are carried into effect, it is good. Is this what is called a “sharp turn” in the entire Party work, a change in the methods of Party work? The Bolsheviks have somewhat different names for such things.
We shall take another shortcoming in the organizational work of the [CPUSA], the growth of the Party, and the struggle with fluctuation in the Party membership. The fluctuation of the Party membership constitutes one of the weakest points in the work for many years. No fewer than 10,000 to 12,000 new members join the C.P. of America every year, yet the total membership of the Party does not rise above 10,000 to 12,000. This means that every year practically the whole Party membership changes. The Party leadership knows this. Much has been said at the different Plenums on this question, many good resolutions have been adopted on the necessity of a struggle against this phenomenon. Yet, there has been no improvement to this day.
During last winter the Party ran a special recruiting campaign, designed to consolidate the political influence of the Party over the masses, along organizational lines. The campaign went off quite successfully. Between November and May, about 11,000 members joined the Party. Here are some figures on the course of this campaign:
The Party membership in October-November, 1931 (the average number of dues paying members) was… 10,542.
Number of new membership cards issued in December… 1,682.
Number of new membership cards issued in January… 1,723.
Number of new membership cards issued in February… 2,610.
Number of new membership cards in March… 2,661.
Number of new membership cards in April… 1,515.
Number of new membership cards for first 14 days of May… 683.
In May 1932, Party membership ought to have been… 21,426.
As a matter of fact, however, in May, 1932, the Party had only 13,949 members in good standing, while 7,477 people or about two-thirds of the new members disappeared, or, in other words, dropped out. This does not mean that those who dropped out were necessarily new members. In many cases, old Party members quit the Party. The Party registration held in November 1931, shows that about 60 percent of the entire membership joined the Party in 1930, and later, thus having less than two years’ standing. This means that many old members of the Party are also quitting the Party. At the present time, as a result of the last recruiting campaign, the percentage of young Party members is unquestionably still higher.
But while the Party members are mostly young in Party standing, they are not at all young in age. Thus, according to the registration, it appears that members of the age of 30-40 predominate (40 percent), while those over the age of 40 constitute 35 percent of the membership. A similar proportion of age prevails among those admitted during the last enrolment campaign, the average age of the comrades in the different districts being 35-38 years. We see that the Party is connected with adult workers, with full-fledged workers. That workers with much experience join the Party is a welcome sign, of course, but it is bad that there are few young people in the Party, that the Party is poorly connected with the young workers, does not pay attention to attracting the young workers into the Party, that there are very few comrades in the Party of army age, which interferes with the work in the army, especially in connection with the war preparations, which, especially considering the weakness of the Y.C.L., is of great importance.
How are the new members of the Party divided by social composition, by industries? About 8,000 of the new members enrolled during the official enrolment campaign (from January II to March 18, 1932) belong to the following industries:
Metal workers… 691.
Railroad [workers]… 106.
Steel workers… 122.
Textile workers… 63.
Sea[workers] and transport workers… 178.
Needle trades workers… 361.
Building workers… 614.
and a number of smaller groups belonging to other trades.
But the above figures do not at all mean that these comrades work at present in the said industries, for the majority of them used to be employed in these industries, and are now unemployed. About three-quarters of the new members are unemployed, only one-quarter are employed workers, while among the old membership (according to the registration held in November 1931), slightly less than half (about 43 percent) are fully employed. We thus see, that, as a result of the last enrolment campaign, the percentage of unemployed Party members has considerably increased. The same applies to those employed in factories and belonging to factory cells. While the absolute number of these members has increased as a consequence of the enrollment campaign, relatively it has decreased. Thus, while 77 of the factory cells had 539 members at the time of the registration — 90 of the newly-organized cells had only 553 members, many of these being old Party members who had not previously belonged to the factory cells. The existing factory cells were the least effective in the enrolment campaign. They succeeded in enrolling only 141 new members out of a total of 8,000. Such are the real results of the enrolment campaign for which the Party had so carefully prepared.
What were the objects of the Party during this enrolment campaign? They were to strengthen the connections with the working masses, to penetrate the factories, especially the big ones.
Here is what the enrolment instructions stated on this question:
“The [CC] has passed a decision to hold an enrolment campaign to bring into the Party thousands of new members from the big mills, mines, and factories, active workers from among the unemployed and unions. The recent events have finally confirmed the growing radicalization of the masses. Our task now consists of raising this radicalization to the level of political consciousness and attracting into our Party the best elements.
“This campaign must not be detached from the current campaigns of the Party; we must organizationally consolidate the results of the actions carried out by the Party in order to strengthen the current campaigns and convert the enrolment into a systematic everyday work of our Party.”
And what were the results of the enrolment? They far from corresponded to the objects undertaken. The Party undertook to strengthen its connections with the factories, yet as a result of the recruitment we have an increase in the percentage of unemployed in the Party. The Party made it its task to raise the activity of the Party members in the factories, but we have only 141 members recruited by the factory cells as a result. The Party aimed at putting an end to the fluctuation in membership, but as a result we have 7,000 members dropping out in half a year. What is the cause of these unsatisfactory results of this work? The cause lies in the poor conduct of the campaign) despite the good intentions.
It is hardly possible to invent more bureaucratic methods of conducting a political campaign than those used in this enrolment campaign. The mere instructions to the Party organizations had to be printed in four issues of the Daily Worker. They contained eighty-nine different paragraphs and points, with a large number of sub-points, introductions, and conclusions. The instructions even fixed with precision just which districts are to compete with each other, and other details.
But the trouble was not so much in the organizational campaign as in the way it was carried out. There was no leadership provided during the campaign. The most fundamental defect was that the campaign had too narrow an organizational, inner-party character. Despite the fact that the newspaper devoted full columns to the enrolment campaign for fully three months, from day to day, there was not a single article in it addressed to the non-party working masses, explaining the tasks and policies of the Party, or why the workers ought to join the Party. There was not a single political slogan in the newspaper devoted to the enrolment work during the campaign. Only once, more or less by accident, in the middle of the campaign, a short appeal to the non-party people was published, occupying a few lines. It cannot be said that this is the way to strengthen the connection of the Party with the masses. Is this the way in which a mass political campaign of serious political importance to the Party ought to be conducted?
Although the instructions stated that the campaign should be linked up with the class struggle of the proletariat, the Party leadership, and the central organ of the Party, themselves forgot this. Nevertheless, despite all these defects, despite the lack of all political work, masses join the Party, are attracted by the correct slogans of the Party and Comintern. They are seeking a way out of their hardships and this way is pointed out by the Communist Party alone. This shows what favorable conditions exist for the work. It is only necessary to utilize them. Unfortunately, the Party is far from capable of utilizing them. Another serious defect of the Party enrolment was the absence of any work among the newly-admitted members, the failure to take measures to attach them to the Party. The enrolment took place as a rule at meetings and the new members of the Party were not dealt with individually. It is not to be surprised at, that many of the new members soon left the Party; as a matter of fact, they never actually belonged to the Party, for the formal issuance of a Party card cannot be regarded as a sufficient sign of attachment of the new member to the Party.
There is very much of the show element, aimed at producing an external effect, in the enrolment work, as well as in the other fields of the Party work, a hunt for quantity at the expense of quality. It is of importance to show as large a number of new recruits as possible, and what happens to them afterwards is of little interest. And when the campaign came to an end the Party took up other campaigns, having no time even to sum up the results of this campaign, to estimate it, to draw lessons for the future. To this day no analysis, no appraisal of the results of the campaign has been made by the Party leadership, nor has this been done at the XIV Plenum. What does this show? It shows an underestimation of the control of execution, as a method of improving the work. Was the campaign carried out in accordance with the instructions, in accordance with the decision adopted by the XIII Plenum? No. Has the Party consolidated its connections with the masses, especially in the most important, decisive industries as a result of the campaign? To some extent, but far from sufficiently.
Not only this campaign, but the entire recruiting work of the [CPUSA] (as well as of many other parties) suffers from a number of permanent defects. The entire work is carried on either automatically or by way of campaigns. There is no constant attention to this work on the part of the Party organizations, on the part of each individual Party member. There is no systematic attention to it on the part of the Party. Hence the accidental character of the new members and the fluctuation. The very method of recording the Party membership by the number of cards issued, or stamps sold, is incorrect. It is necessary to pass from recording the Party cards, or the stamps sold, to recording and studying the Party members themselves, the living people. Neither is it right to consider a man who has submitted an application for membership a Party member. He must still be made a Party member, educated as a Party member. In the CPSU every more or less old member of the Party is able to name more than one Party member whom he brought into the Party, educated for Party membership. The comrades of the Communist Parties abroad do not even understand the question, when they are asked, how many members they have educated for the Party?
These incorrect methods of enrolment, the failure to control execution, to provide leadership, and rectify mistakes, as well as the unsatisfactory work of the cells, with their lack of connections with the masses, essentially explain the great fluctuation in the Party, which the Party has so far proved helpless to combat.
While speaking of the work in the factories and growth of the Party, we have already pointed out a number of bureaucratic methods of the Party work. In doing this we have already partly covered the third topic of our analysis, so that there is little left to say. The leadership of the American C. P. very resolutely condemned the existence of bureaucracy in the Party by way of self-criticism. Here is what Comrade Browder said in the report of the C.C. to the XIII Plenum on this question:
“It means that the inner life of our Party does not correspond to the needs and desires of the workers who are closest to us, who follow us, who believe firmly in the line of our Party, who are convinced loyal supporters of the [Comintern] who are ready to make any sacrifices for the revolution. They don’t find what they want when they join our Party. Why is that? Comrades, I think that we have to say that this is because of this tendency towards bureaucracy, towards formalism, which, as Comrade Kuusinen developed at length in the American Commission last year, is a characteristic American social disease. It penetrates into our Party. Its specific nature is bureaucratic tendencies. Everywhere these bureaucratic tendencies arise. We must make it very clear that these are alien tendencies that find their origin in the ideology of the bourgeoisie and especially of the petty bourgeoisie.”
“We find a great readiness in our Party apparatus to charge workers in the shop with opportunism, but we find a great reluctance, comrades, to spending a few evenings with workers in the shop concretely discussing what are the problems of this shop and how we can work in this shop. Too often, when we do have the direct contact between our leading apparatus and these workers it takes on a formal character-the transmission of instructions that have already been worked out in the ‘secret chambers’ of the committee and no discussion about the concrete problems of that shop.” (The Communist, No. 9, 1931.)
We have already pointed out that one of the causes of bureaucracy in the Party is the excessive centralization of the work, the excessive centralization of leadership. Lenin repeatedly emphasized that centralization of leadership must be combined with extensive decentralization of responsibility for the different branches of the work. Lenin also repeatedly pointed out the necessity not only of teaching the locals, the lower workers, but also of learning from them, learning from the masses, listening to their voice, to their sentiments. This is not done in the [CPUSA].
We know that one of the forms and sources oi bureaucracy, is the leadership by circulars instead of leadership in person. Such leadership by circular has been developed to the highest degree in the [CPUSA]. Every Party committee, every department of the committee, considers it its duty to write circulars and instructions to the lower organizations, by which the entire life of the latter is regulated to the minutest detail. No place or time is left for the special, local questions, for the display of initiative. One is well satisfied if one has time to read all the circulars received from above; no time is left for their fulfillment. This incidentally bureaucratizes the meetings of the cell. Much of the time of the meeting is devoted to reading different circulars. Here is a sample taken from the minutes of a certain cell and showing what its meeting is devoted to:
“Following communications read:
“1. To all cells from the CC. Decision to alter the system of membership dues in regard to unemployed comrades.
“2. In support of the Kentucky strike.
“3. From the CC in connection with the expulsion, of Party members and exposals of non-Party elements in the Party press,
“4. The Daily Worker and the enrolment campaign.
” 5. Competition with Salt Lake City in the recruitment campaign.”
This system of bureaucratic leadership develops a sense of irresponsibility and helplessness among the local workers. The comrades become accustomed to waiting for instructions from above on all questions, avoid undertaking anything themselves, fear making mistakes.
The method of leadership by circulars, is in itself a result of another abnormality, creating bureaucracy in the work. We refer to the extreme inflation of the Party machinery, to the excessive number of full-time Party officials. Instead of attracting comrades to the work of the Party apparatus from the factories, who are directly connected with the masses, particularly members of the given committee, so that the committee might know what is taking place locally, every more or less active and efficient comrade from the factory is immediately removed from it, is made a permanent Party official, is broken away from the masses.
Does the Party leadership know and understand the causes of its bureaucracy? It certainly does. But the Party still adheres to the following “system”: So long as a resolution is not finally adopted it is discussed, edited, improved, etc., but as soon as it is adopted, it is ignored as if it possesses the magic power of itself being carried into life. What results is a sort of fetishism of resolutions. At best it is sent to a certain number of persons or organizations for information-and this is all. Yet, what is a resolution or decision? It is a plan, a system of various measures, which must be carried into effect, on which it is necessary to work. The work actually only begins with the approval of this plan, but in the [CPUSA], it ends there. This is abnormal and must be altered. The systematic control of the fulfillment of resolutions adopted should assist this. Without a combination of broad self-criticism, with the control of execution of decisions, we will not get rid of the bureaucracy which prevents the Party from getting into closer touch with the masses, which breaks the Party away from the masses.
In conclusion, we wish to quote the following statement of Comrade Browder to the XIII Plenum:
“We have been writing and talking about shop work for a long time, but it remains in our Plenums and resolutions and our documents, and the word is not transformed into the deed.
“I think that we ought to begin to develop another real campaign in our Party, beginning with the [CC], a real struggle against phrase-mongering. Every time somebody tries to formulate a task for us, let us give him the job of beginning. And we must begin to insist more, comrades, that our resolutions shall not remain on paper. especially the resolutions about shop work. A resolution that remains on paper becomes an obstacle to the development of the work.” (The Communist, No. 9, 1931.)
This is said very well. It is only a pity that the XIV Plenum did not analyze which of the decisions of the XIII Plenum had been carried into effect, which had not been, and why, with sufficient concreteness. Let us hope that this will be done at the XV Plenum. We can issue only one warning: Unless the Party takes up control of the execution of its own decisions with as much determination as it has engaged in self-criticism, it will not move one step forward in the direction of an improvement of its work, for as Comrade Browder correctly noted, “a resolution remaining on paper is an obstacle to the development of the work.” And there are still far too many such paper resolutions in the Party.