An open letter to members of the Communist Party USA

Comrades, we write to you in solidarity as we are confident we share the goal of overthrowing US capitalism and imperialism.


[Originally published at]

The past several years of capitalist instability have shaken the political consciousness of our generation. From 2008 onwards, shock after shock has exposed capitalism for what it is, prompting millions to draw increasingly radical conclusions.

You signed up to join the Communist Party USA because you were tired of watching the world burn and decided it was time to actually do something.

Having witnessed Bernie Sanders, AOC, and DSA’s failures and betrayals, you wanted a party that struggles clearly and unambiguously for the socialist revolution. You wanted a party that rejects both rotten capitalist parties, the Democrats and Republicans, and fights to build a class-independent workers’ party. You wanted a party that aims to replicate the victory of the Russian Revolution of 1917 here in the United States.

In short, you wanted a communist party.

The harsh reality is that instead, you were confronted with a loose and disorganized outfit of Democratic Party apologists with a largely inactive membership—if you were even contacted at all after signing up to join.

The CPUSA was not always this way. However, mistakes in theory and perspectives inevitably lead to mistakes in practice. The road to the party’s disintegration and irrelevance is rooted in its political history, going back to the period before World War II. All new members of the CPUSA deserve to know this history.

speech Image RCAOur starting point is simple: Back to Marx! Back to Lenin! / Image: Revolutionary Communists of America

You are one of thousands of people who have signed up to join in recent years, according to their website. We believe that these thousands are earnest communists who joined to devote their time and energy to a serious fight for socialist revolution.

In the spirit of comradely communist debate, we offer this contribution toward understanding the current state of your party and point the way forward for those seeking a communist party worthy of the name. Our starting point is simple: Back to Marx! Back to Lenin!

The early CPUSA

The Russian working class, led by the Bolshevik Party, seized power in 1917, the greatest event in human history. The Bolsheviks went on to form the Communist International, an effort to build and train new communist parties worldwide.

The founding members of the CPUSA, despite certain political errors, were pioneering supporters of the Russian Revolution who sought to learn its lessons and implement them in the United States. The history of the early CPUSA has many proud chapters. Comrades of the CPUSA in the 1930s played an important role in building the labor movement and fighting racial segregation.

However, the role of communists today is not to simply reminisce over the past. It is evident that after over a century of existence, the official CP has drifted entirely from its Marxist origins.

Class independence

It is likely that you joined the Communist Party because you were sick of the mainstream political options and had already broken with the Democratic Party. You were probably quite shocked when you learned that the Communist Party supports precisely that rotten imperialist party.

You are not wrong to be skeptical of this policy! It runs completely counter to Marx and Lenin’s approach. There is no “progressive wing” of the bourgeoisie, and there has not been one for well over a century.

The defining political trait of the Bolshevik Party was its implacable hostility to the liberal bourgeoisie. To give just one example, in April 1917, in the midst of the Russian Revolution, Lenin commented that the working class: “must open the eyes of the people to the deception practiced by the bourgeois politicians, teach them to put no faith in words, to depend entirely on their own strength, their own organization, their own unity, and their own weapons.” This summarizes the approach of Lenin and the Bolsheviks very well.

This class-independent policy was the ideological foundation of the early Communist International. In the early years of the CPUSA, there would have been no question of supporting the Democratic Party in any way, shape, or form. The party stood for class independence and for socialist revolution as the immediate task facing the working class.

third international Image public domainClass-independence was the ideological foundation of the early Communist International / Image: public domain

But by the mid-1920s, the CPUSA and the Communist International had started sliding away from genuine Bolshevism. This did not happen overnight.

Despite the early Comintern’s best efforts to build the Party of World Revolution, the European socialist revolution was defeated by 1924. In these conditions of isolation, the Russian Revolution degenerated into a state run by a bureaucratic caste with material privileges that far exceeded the living standards of the average Russian worker.

This had an entirely detrimental effect on the Communist International and the Communist Parties worldwide. The Soviet state and the Comintern were transformed into tools for defending the narrow interests of the nascent bureaucracy rather than weapons for the global class struggle. Stalin and his collaborators embraced the anti-Marxist policy of “socialism in one country” and the goal of peaceful coexistence with imperialism.

This was a serious departure from the tradition of Lenin and the early Comintern when no-holds-barred class war against all world capitalism was the order of the day. It was a spit in the face to the resounding words of the Communist Manifesto: “Workers of the world, unite!”

In 1936, the CPUSA started supporting the Democratic Party. This turn toward open class collaboration was implemented, not to further the cause of the working class, but to further the narrow geopolitical aims of the bureaucracy that had usurped power in the Soviet Union. Stalin wanted an alliance with Anglo-American imperialism, and for this reason alone, the CPUSA now argued that FDR was the “lesser evil.”

After the Hitler-Stalin Pact zigzag in 1939–1941, also dictated by the narrow interests of the bureaucracy, the CPUSA continued supporting the liberal-capitalist Democrats during World War II.

The CP leaders were very explicit about their new policy of political collaboration with the capitalist class. Their General Secretary, Earl Browder, infamously said in 1944:

There can be no effective national unity in America … that does not include big capitalists able to fight for and win at least a certain minimum of participation on the part of their whole group.

This disgraceful turn was the beginning of the end for the CPUSA. In various forms and with few exceptions, this class-collaborationist policy has continued on to this day. Merely skimming through and People’s World offers example after example.

Most recently, in the discussion documents for the upcoming June 2024 Conference, the National Committee of the CPUSA writes:

… The working-class and people’s movements comprise the main forces in the fight against the MAGA right and fascism … They are helping shape the direction of the informal coalition of workers, sections of business, social movements, and political parties like the Democrats, the Working Families Party, and independents which we call the people’s front … Participation in it and helping activate the anti-fascist, anti-MAGA majority remains a top priority for the Communist Party in the coming period” [our emphasis].

In other words, they argue that we must support the Democratic Party—not to mention “sections of business”—in order to defeat Trumpism. What they call a “popular front” is merely another term for a cross-class alliance in which the workers are subordinated to the capitalists.

But eight years of the Democrats under Obama is what paved the way for Trump in the first place. In the context of declining living standards and the absence of a serious left-wing alternative, Trump won over certain sections of the working class through his cynical “anti-establishment” rhetoric. The capitalist Democratic Party cannot reverse the decline of US capitalism, which is the economic basis for Trumpism. Only a fighting party with a class-struggle program that drastically improves the lives of all workers can undermine the foundations of Trumpism.

We are told that Biden is somehow “pro-worker,” or at the very least, the “lesser evil.” And yet, Biden is clearly the preferred candidate of the capitalist class. In the 2020 election, Wall Street preferred Biden over Trump by a ratio of 5:1 when it came to campaign contributions. He again leads his rival by a significant margin in 2024.

Trump Image Liam Enea Wikimedia CommonsMost capitalists do not like Trump’s erratic and unpredictable nature. The CPUSA leadership is, in effect, arguing that a majority of the capitalist class constitutes an ally of the working class / Image: Liam Enea, Wikimedia Commons

Most capitalists do not like Trump’s erratic and unpredictable nature. The CPUSA leadership is, in effect, arguing that a majority of the capitalist class constitutes an ally of the working class. That we should cozy up to those who exploit and oppress us.

The CPUSA leaders also argue that the socialist transformation of society must wait until after the far right has been defeated. But in reality, the way to defeat reaction is to struggle for class independence and the socialist revolution now—not in the distant future. The two tasks are necessarily intertwined and cannot be accomplished while simultaneously supporting the capitalists. Only class-independent communist politics can split Trump’s base on class lines and prepare the working-class unity required for a successful socialist revolution.

The assertion that Trumpism equals fascism is also a gross overexaggeration intended to scare voters into supporting the capitalist Democrats. Trump is a despicable, demagogic reactionary, absolutely. But such people are a common feature of “normal” bourgeois democracy. At this stage, neither he nor anyone else would be able to impose a fascist dictatorship on the US working class—a force over 100 million strong and just beginning to flex its muscles after several decades of slumber.


As everyone knows, the US ruling class is directly funding the Zionists’ genocidal war on the people of Gaza because Israel is their only reliable ally in the region. Biden’s policy is merely the policy of US imperialism.

But this blatant disregard for public opinion and the rights of the oppressed has exposed the hypocrisy of both the liberal and conservative wings of the ruling class. It has pushed unprecedented numbers to reject both major parties and the idea of “lesser evil” voting. This is a healthy response to this living nightmare, with important implications for the future.

Incredibly, the leadership of the CPUSA actually sees this as a problem, as it threatens their “anti-fascist coalition”:

The Biden administration and the GOP are largely on the same page in supporting the Israeli invasion … As a result, the election’s outcome may now be in serious jeopardy. Many young voters and voters of color, understandably enraged at ongoing support for Israel, have rejected supporting the Democratic presidential ticket. A significant part of the anti-fascist coalition is in danger of splintering off, precipitating a serious crisis.

This is where the logic of lesser evilism leads! A mass movement of workers and youth has emerged, in opposition to the Democratic Party. This can only be welcomed and encouraged. But instead, the Communist Party is concerned with how best to funnel this movement back towards the Democrats.

Other aspects of the Palestinian struggle fare no better in the hands of the CP leaders. The CPUSA calls for a two-state solution as a way to achieve a “change in the balance of forces that the establishment of two states could provide on the international arena.”

Meanwhile, while we wait for the imperialists to kindly broker a lasting two-(capitalist)-state solution, the CPUSA “urges all those who love peace and justice to call their members of Congress and the White House demanding immediate de-escalation.” They encourage their members and supporters to “call Washington” and demand a “no” vote or veto on weapons delivery to Israel, among other similar demands.

This whole approach contains a number of significant errors from the point of view of genuine Marxism and Leninism.

In our view, the way to change the “balance of forces” in favor of Palestine is not through utopian appeals to bourgeois diplomacy, but rather through the global class struggle, especially within the Middle East. The overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of workers’ governments in countries like Turkey, Egypt, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan would transform the situation, paving the way for a socialist federation across the region. And the only way to ensure US imperialism doesn’t continue its meddling in the region is to successfully overthrow capitalism here at home.

comrades Image RCAThe way to change the “balance of forces” in favor of Palestine is not through utopian appeals to bourgeois diplomacy, but rather through the global class struggle / Image: Revolutionary Communists of America

Some may say that this perspective is not “practical.” But while the Middle Eastern and North African socialist revolution may not be in the cards next week, it is absolutely achievable in our lifetime. Clearly, 75 years of “practical” solutions have not worked. Let us not forget that the failure of the two-state solution paved the way for the present crisis in the first place. The Oslo Accords did not stop Israel’s constant encroachments on Palestinian lands, nor did it end the Zionist reign of terror, murder, and immiseration.

As for the suggestion to call the White House, we must honestly acknowledge that this is the approach of a liberal nonprofit, not a communist party. The US government is a capitalist government—not a “neutral” institution that can be pressured through phone calls.

Lenin explained the role of the capitalist state very well in The State and Revolution. The role of communists is not to sow illusions in bourgeois democracy, but to tirelessly explain the need to fight for a workers’ government as the only real and lasting solution to the problems facing the international working class.

“The working class has no country”

For Marx, Engels, and Lenin, internationalism was not simply a nice-sounding phrase to include in programmatic statements. They all dedicated their lives to building an international organization to facilitate working-class unity around the globe. They understood that socialism is international, or it is nothing.

In Principles of Communism, written in 1847, Engels asks the reader: “Will it be possible for this revolution to take place in one country alone?” He responds: “No. By creating the world market, big industry has already brought all the peoples of the Earth … into such close relation with one another that none is independent of what happens to the others.”

Marx wrote in the 1864 statutes of the First International: “The emancipation of labor is neither a local nor a national, but a social problem embracing all countries in which modern society exists, and depending for its solution on the concurrence, practical and theoretical, of the most advanced countries.”

In a January 1918 speech, Lenin explained:

We are far from having completed even the transitional period from capitalism to socialism. We have never cherished the hope that we could finish it without the aid of the international proletariat. We never had any illusions on that score … The final victory of socialism in a single country is of course impossible.

The founding members of the CPUSA agreed with the Marxist approach to this question. The CPUSA used to be part of the Communist International, which was created by the Bolsheviks in 1919 to spread the Russian Revolution worldwide. The early Comintern was the historical high point of the communist movement.

But around the time of Lenin’s death in 1924, it began degenerating along national-reformist lines, adopting the theory of “socialism in one country.” The Comintern’s congresses became increasingly infrequent over the next two decades. Stalin eventually dissolved it altogether in 1943 to appease the Allied imperialists.

To this day, the CPUSA program continues to put forth the anti-Marxist theory of socialism in one country, stating in its program: “The Communist Party seeks to build socialism in the United States based on the revolutionary traditions and struggles of the people of our country” [our emphasis].

It is likely that the CPUSA leaders would argue that they retain their internationalism to this day. Their program also states that “the global and exploitive expansiveness inherent in capitalism is laid out clearly in the Communist Manifesto. Lenin’s revolutionary strategy was grounded in a clear understanding of imperialism. Workers of all countries will have to unite in a multifaceted international movement to bring a socialist future into being.”

Another one of the 2024 preconvention documents states: “The current tasks of the international working class are of extreme historical significance.”

banner Image RCAThis summer, the RCA will help found the Revolutionary Communist International. This will be the first serious step toward building a mass communist international since the Russian Revolution / Image: Revolutionary Communists of America

It is profoundly true that the international working class faces tasks of extreme historical significance. But in our view, the only serious response to this truth would be to set up a united international organization to fight for the world socialist revolution. However, the CPUSA proposes nothing specific whatsoever in terms of actually building that kind of international unity or organization. The CPUSA leadership has had decades to make something like this a reality—but not a single step has been taken in this direction.

The CP leaders occasionally refer to “fraternal parties” in other countries, but it is clear that internationalism in deeds does not exist in the CPUSA. Sadly, it must be said that internationalism is merely a catchword for this party.

With the aid of our comrades in over 40 other countries worldwide, the RCA will help found the Revolutionary Communist International this June. This will be the first serious step toward building a mass communist international since the Russian Revolution. In our view, this could not come at a more important time in the global class struggle.

The Soviet Union

We would be remiss if we did not take up the question of the Soviet Union in this letter.

The Soviet Union is slandered and vilified by the capitalist press for one very simple reason: it showed that it is possible to run society without the rule of the bankers and landlords. The Soviet Union, basing itself on a nationalized planned economy, achieved amazing economic feats, offering a glimpse of what we could achieve with an international planned economy.

However, we must also be able to explain why the Soviet Union collapsed, rather than having paved the way for world communism. Leon Trotsky, who led the Russian Revolution alongside Lenin, provided the answer to this key question, notably in his book The Revolution Betrayed. He analyzed both the hugely positive aspects of the planned economy and the serious issues facing the USSR:

Gigantic achievement in industry, enormously promising beginnings in agriculture, an extraordinary growth of the old industrial cities and a building of new ones, a rapid increase of the numbers of workers, a rise in cultural level and cultural demands—such are the indubitable results of the October revolution, in which the prophets of the old world tried to see the grave of human civilization. With the bourgeois economists, we no longer have anything to quarrel over. Socialism has demonstrated its right to victory, not on the pages of Das Kapital, but in an industrial arena comprising a sixth part of the earth’s surface—not in the language of dialectics, but in the language of steel, cement, and electricity. Even if the Soviet Union, as a result of internal difficulties, external blows, and the mistakes of leadership, were to collapse—which we firmly hope will not happen—there would remain in earnest for the future this indestructible fact, that thanks solely to a proletarian revolution a backward country has achieved in less than 10 years successes unexampled in history.

Having established these facts, Trotsky went on to explain the basis for bureaucratic degeneration in the Soviet state, which was undoubtedly a real phenomenon:

1917 Image public domainThe Soviet Union is slandered and vilified by the capitalist press because it showed that it is possible to run society without the rule of the bankers and landlords / Image: public domain

The basis of bureaucratic rule is the poverty of society in objects of consumption, with the resulting struggle of each against all. When there are enough goods in a store, the purchasers can come whenever they want to. When there are few goods, the purchasers are compelled to stand in line. When the lines are very long, it is necessary to appoint a policeman to keep order. Such is the starting point of the power of the Soviet bureaucracy.

It is possible that you have heard all manner of damning accusations against Trotsky. But certainly, all communists should let Trotsky’s real deeds and ideas speak for themselves—not let others formulate our opinions for us.

We encourage you to study works by Trotsky such as In Defence of October and The Revolution Betrayed and make up your own mind about his ideas. We are confident you will find that they are simply the continuation of Marxism and Leninism in the epoch of the isolation of the Russian Revolution.

For genuine Marxism! For a genuine Leninist party!

The third and final discussion document for the CPUSA’s upcoming conference is “Build the Party, Build the Clubs.” In it, we find the following: “Workers and students are joining in numbers not seen in decades.” However, it acknowledges that:

while significant growth has been achieved in recent years, here again, most of it takes place online and is almost completely spontaneous. The truth is people are coming to the party, but the party is not reaching out to the people—at least not in a consistent and organized way. While celebrating the ‘socialist moment’ of recent years, the party has yet to tap into it in a deliberate way.

We think this speaks to a very important point. In recent years, communism has experienced a revival of support in the US, particularly among young people. Many of these comrades, wanting to get organized, simply Googled “communism” and wound up joining the already moribund Communist Party USA. We saw the same dynamic with the rise of support for “democratic socialism” and the growth of DSA in 2017.

But the downward trajectory of DSA in recent years shows that this kind of “accidental” growth can only take an organization so far.

In our frank opinion, the CPUSA is living on borrowed time. We must ask how it is that a party that has had 105 years to build its forces finds itself “rebuilding” the foundations of the party at this critical juncture in the class struggle, as they put it in that document.

All of history shows that the decisive element in building a party is its ideas. The Bolshevik Party grew from just one person, Plekhanov, who brought Marxism to Russia in the early 1880s. By maintaining the ideas of genuine Marxism, Lenin and the Bolsheviks forged their party into a mass revolutionary party by 1917.

By contrast, mass organizations embracing millions of members can dissipate entirely if their ideas do not correspond with reality. This has happened on more than one occasion in history. The CPUSA’s material resources and “brand name” will not be enough to save it from decades of political errors.

The way forward for the movement is simple: Back to Marx! Back to Lenin! Back to the Communist Manifesto, What Is To Be Done?, and State and Revolution! Back to the early, class-independent years of the Communist International! These ideas have never been more relevant than they are today.

We invite you to study these classics and our own political material and to think these questions over carefully. Our comrades, organized across the country, will be more than happy to discuss these questions and more in detail. If you agree with what you read, we invite you to join the Revolutionary Communists of America.

On the basis of the ideas of genuine Marxism, we can and will prepare a new heyday for communism in the United States. We can and will overthrow US capitalism in our lifetime.

Communist greetings,

The Revolutionary Communists of America