A Proper Communist Party Should Oppose the Corporate State Not Glorify It

People’s World is the newspaper of the Communist Party USA. The paper has been around for almost a century (founded as the Daily Worker founded in 1924). For the sake of keeping our feet on the planet’s surface, a proper communist should oppose the corporate state, not glorify it. A communist should know what fascism is—in all its myriad iterations—and help his comrades understand this. Communism at its best is about consciousness raising and speaking truth to power.

Here’s the link to the article, if you want to read the rest.

Is this crop of communists so deluded as to believe the establishment in Washington DC represents Joseph Weydemeyer’s “dictatorship of the proletariat”? I know a lot of right-wingers who believe that, but they’re almost as far off the mark as the communists who wrote this article. For conservatives, it’s a problem of generalizing totalitarianism to everything. Communists are supposed to know better. The “dictatorship of the proletariat” is not among fascism’s manifestations.

The authors of he piece are Mark Gruenberg and John Wojcik. Gruenberg is editor of Press Associates Inc., which I think is People’s World. According to the People’s World profile page, Gruenberg is “holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners. Really? A union meat cutter (not to be confused with a butcher), Wojcik is editor-in-chief of People’s World. He, too, should know that Matt Gaetz and Anna Paulina Luna aren’t fascists. Wojcik is the author of another recently published People’s World article “House approves revenge panel to settle Trump scores and defend insurrectionists. I will come to this in a moment.

But, first, what is fascism? Franz Neumann (a Marxist legal scholar) defines fascism as a political ideology and governing strategy characterized by authoritarianism and corporatism that rests atop the structure of totalitarian monopoly capitalism. Fascism is a response by banking and corporate power to capitalist crisis, its operatives establishing an extended state apparatus integrating all aspects of society—culture, economics, education, and politics. Fascism thus represents a new form of political and social organization. Neumann emphasizes the importance of grasping the underlying economic and social factors that give rise to the corporate state, as well as the psychological and cultural factors that make it appealing to certain segments of the population. Like other critical theorists, Neumann emphasizes the role of the media and cultural institutions in shaping public opinion and reinforcing the fascist ideology (which may not own that label).

On the surface, the difference between old and new fascism is the question of nationalism. This has confused many people. To be sure, the old fascists pushed an extreme ethnonationalist line. At the same time, the end sought by national socialists was a new world order. The Nazis were globalists, and, in alliance with fascist Italy and imperial Japan conquered much of the world before the liberal democracies of the West in alliance with the Soviet Union defeated them. The new fascism no longer hides behind the rhetoric of ethnonationalism (it has been replaced by multiculturalism). But the other characteristics are manifest. We find the business sector collaborating with technocracy and the administrative state, and the media and cultural institutions busy shaping public opinion and reinforcing the ideology of the corporate state, namely progressivism, the other ideological projection of corporatism. (See Totalitarian Monopoly Capitalism: Fascism Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow for an in-depth analysis.)

As obvious as the situation is, Gruenberg and Wojcik don’t get it. Only a couple of weeks before this latest article, they penned an article in People’s World carrying the title, “Big business is behind extreme right takeover of the House.” Partisan devotion is so thick here that Gruenberg and Wojcik can only see the hand of big business when it elects Republican candidates. For them, the Democratic Party is a priori not fascist, therefore the hand of big business in that party’s affairs become an invisible one. That’s the way logic works in their world

To be charitable, the inability to see reality does not come about because the role of big business in the Democratic Party is minimal but because capitalist accumulation is paramount and the relations complex. For more than a century, the Democratic Party has performed the structural role of steering mechanism, shepherding the capitalist system through its inevitable cycles of crises. Its more structural and less obvious instrumental features may make its political-economic character harder to detect, but it is not difficult to figure it out. Performing the structural role has involved integrating organized labor into the party structure, giving the appearance of solidarity with the people. In contrast, the Republican Party is seen as being more pro-business—and is portrayed as such by the propaganda system. However, the Democratic Party is bankrolled by corporate and financial industries. Banking and big corporate donors, along with the technology and entertainment sectors, are among the largest contributors to the Democratic Party and its candidates. Overall, Democrats raise and spend more money than the Republicans.

We may also be charitable and say that cognitive dissonance plays a major role in producing the blindness. As most readers know, cognitive dissonance is a psychological phenomenon marked by mental discomfort or stress that results from simultaneously holding two or more conflicting beliefs, ideas, or values. Intrapsychic conflict may become acute when an individual encounters new information that challenges his existing beliefs or when he makes choices based on beliefs that are inconsistent with his values. When the individual who expresses beliefs he thinks align with the platform of a particular party learns that the real politics and policies of the party are in conflict with those beliefs, especially when they strike at his ethical sensibilities, he will experience cognitive dissonance. To resolve the discomfort, the person may change his political beliefs to align with his moral beliefs. Or, he may rationalize the inconsistency by “finding reasons to support the policy—or by adjusting his ethical sensibilities.

For example, the person may believe that it is wrong as a matter of principle for the FBI to run counterintelligence programs on American citizens and their political organizations. This individual may recognize this as an expression of fascism and say so when the surveillance apparatus and harassment campaign are aimed at the organizations and movements with which he associates. But when the party he supports defends such programs—and not only that but is actually directly involved initiating them and enabling them—the individual must rationalize the situation or completely change his political loyalties. The discomfort caused by cognitive dissonance in this case is powerful enough to cause individuals to ignore or reject information that contradicts their existing beliefs and committments.

This is how we find supporters of the Democratic Party defending the national security state’s assault on the fundamental liberties and rights that lie at the heart of the American Republic as a defense of democracy, while those endeavoring to get to the bottom of the causal forces behind the deep state war on democracy as those “threatening democracy. Remember the Orwellian slogans “Freedom is slavery! We might add to Orwell’s list the slogan “Technocracy is Democracy! The FBI colludes with media companies to suppress the First Amendment rights of American citizens and that’s not fascism, but the Freedom Caucus that forces the House to create the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on the Weaponization of Government is? And I thought the CPUSA was down with popular front politics and tactics.

The FBI conducted extensive surveillance of the CPUSA throughout the 20th century as part of that agency’s broader efforts to counteract perceived threats to national security and the government. The FBI used a variety of tactics to gather information on the CPUSA and its members, including infiltrating the organization with agents and informers, wiretapping, and intercepting and reading correspondence. The FBI also conducted surveillance of individuals who were associated with the CPUSA or suspected of being members, including political activists, labor leaders, and intellectuals. The FBI’s harassment of CPUSA violated the constitutional rights of American citizens. But it was rationalized as a “defense of democracy, even though it was the opposite of that. It was an assault on democracy.

Did the CPUSA oppose the Church Committee hearings in the 1970s that exposed FBI’s excesses against its organization and allies? No. Quite the opposite. In response to the Church Committee revelations (and the CPUSA knew the FBI was surveilling it and disrupting its operations), the CPUSA and its supporters criticized the FBI’s actions as a violation of their constitutional rights and an abuse of government power. They argued that the FBI’s efforts to monitor and disrupt their activities were politically motivated and aimed at suppressing political dissent and free speech. Even before the Church Committee revelations, the CPUSA took legal action to challenge the FBI’s surveillance tactics. In the Communist Party of the United States v. Subversive Activities Control Board (1967), while the Supreme Court upheld the government’s power to surveil the CPUSA, its judges confirmed that the First Amendment protected the CPUSA’s right to advocate for its political views.

In the end, the FBI’s harassment campaign took a toll on the CPUSA and contributed to a sharp decline in its membership and influence. Perhaps this is what the CPUSA is hoping will happen with the populist figures and organizations its leaders and members smear as fascists. If so, then they don’t stand on the principles that undergirded their criticism of the FBI’s harassment of them. So what good is the organization? Cynically, the liberal principles that finally put an end to government suppression of the CPUSA are to them only instruments to be taken up when advance the organization’s own politics.

This is the ACLU new stance. In the past, the ACLU defended the rights of all individuals regardless of their political beliefs or ideologies. In 1978, the ACLU defended the First Amendment rights of neo-Nazis who planned to march in Skokie, Illinois, a predominantly Jewish community with a large number of Holocaust survivors. The ACLU argued that the right to free speech, even if it was offensive or unpopular, was protected under the Constitution. In the face of criticism that the ACLU was giving a platform to hate speech, the ACLU stood fast in upholding its commitment to free speech and the position that defending the rights of the neo-Nazis was necessary to protect the rights of all individuals.

Today, the ACLU has turned its attention inward to root out what is describes as systemic racism within its own organization. To remedy the problem of white supremacy among its ranks, it has deployed the hammer of inclusion against its leadership and staff. At one time the ACLU defended the right of people to hold and express contrary views on race matters. Today, the whiff of opinion that diverges from the woke doctrine will get you censored and expelled. (I didn’t wait for the ACLU to expel me. I resigned in protest last year.)

Gus Hall, the long-time chairman of the CPUSA, must be rolling in his grave. In his 1987 Working class USA: the power and the movement, he advocated a “bill of rights socialism.” (I have a copy on my book shelf signed by Gus.) Hall was a strong advocate for free speech and believed that all individuals should have the right to express their views, regardless of whether they were popular or controversial. He saw the right to free speech as essential to a democratic society. He argued that restrictions on speech, whether by the government or by the private sector, were a threat to the rights of individuals. To be sure, Hall found himself at odds with those who sought to restrict speech on the grounds that it was harmful or dangerous. But he believed, as I believe, as all people who care about freedom believe, that the best way to counter harmful speech is through more speech, and that censorship and restrictions on speech only serve to drive harmful ideas underground and make them more difficult to challenge.

I will confess to publishing a few op-eds in the People’s World back in the first decade of the 21st century. (See The victims of capitalism and Texas execution could end death penalty, if we act. I stand by those writings.) Since then, the editors have become divorced from reality. I mean, come on: “the now-revered Nancy Pelosi”? I’m sure Pelosi is revered by some, but by communists? Yeah, I guess these communists. But in what communist tradition do liberalism, populism, and republicanism constitute “fascism”? The CPUSA no longer represents anything communist. The organization is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party. As such, the CPUSA cannot represent the interests of the proletariat.

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Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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