COMMUNIST PARTY OF OKLAHOMA
INTRODUCTION Communism did not begin with Karl Marx or the Russian Revolution of 1917. In America, forms of communism – common access to land, equal distribution of resources and so on – existed for hundreds if not thousands of years before European colonists arrived in the “New World.” Of course the desire for a society based on peace, cooperation, community and common wealth does not belong exclusively to Native American peoples. The long suffering groups of indigenous Europeans from Greece, to Scotland, from France to Finland and beyond also shared in similar hopes before the rise of more exploitative class systems and ideologies came to dominate the “West.” Today, people all over the world are once again awakening these dreams and rising up against despotism, squander, exploitation and corruption. In times of crisis, when the people can no longer endure the strains and indignities of oppression, communist ideas gain increasing favor. These ideas were quite alive during the times of the Ancients and were awakened during the first American Revolution against British colonialism. Thinkers like Samuel Adams and Thomas Paine, to name a few, were the proto-socialists of their day – denouncing the unjustified privilege and powers that come with disproportionate economic power. Today, the revolutionary spirit that guided them to form the modern world’s first democratic republic is now guiding America’s working people toward a new revolutionary awakening.
The Communist Party carries on this legacy by putting forward the most advanced, most revolutionary objectives for defending the human dignity of working people, the environment and civil rights. It strives to expand democracy for workers, and encourages shared prosperity for all. Communist ideas, while taking different forms in many settings all over the world, arise first and foremost from the organized labor movement. When working-class people combine to protect and support one another, to enhance efficiency through planning, ensure accountability and share prosperity, this is the essence and proof of both the validity and necessity of communism.
OUR HISTORY The Communist Party was founded in 1919, but the roots of socialism in Oklahoma run much deeper. Before the existence of the Communist Party, Oklahomans were confronted with many of the same problems that working people are confronting today. Capitalist cartels increasingly forced small, independent farmers and business-owners to go under. They manipulated politicians with money and used them to pass laws that gave favorable treatment to the large companies. People were steadily driven into wage-work while the capitalists consolidated the land and resources of Oklahoma for themselves. Those they couldnâ€™t buy-off or intimidate, they murdered. Native peoples were the first to experience the ruthlessness of American capitalism, but they certainly were not the last. African slaves, impoverished refugees from Ireland, small 2
farmers of various nationalities, sharecroppers, free blacks and white – working people all – suffered under increasing exploitation by the industrial giants. By the time Oklahoma received the status of statehood in 1907 many residents of the territory had already become convinced that socialism – a democratic approach to managing economics controlled by working people themselves – was the only way forward. The Socialist Party of America was formed in 1901 and was gaining ground throughout the country. In Oklahoma, the Socialist Party boasted the largest per capita dues-paying membership in the nation. Socialist Party candidates won elections all across the state. But the Socialists did more than simply run for elected office. They built cooperatives and provided support organizations for impoverished small farmers and workers. When the United States enacted the draft and began forcing Oklahomans to fight in Europe during WWI, the Socialist Party – under the leadership of Eugene Debs – argued that the World War was a fight between capitalists where rich men profited and poor men died. In 1917, in protest of the draft, many socialists and radicals assembled in Ponotoc County for an armed uprising against the federal government. The incident has since become known as the Green Corn Rebellion. Soon after the Green Corn Rebellion, the Bolshevik Revolution occurred in Russia. Workers’ revolutions alarmed the capitalists controlling the U.S. government to such an extent that criminal syndicalist laws were passed to outlaw socialist organizations and red flags. In that same year, the leaders of 3
the Oklahoma Socialist Party voted to disband their organization for fear of increasingly violent reprisals by law enforcement and Ku Klux Klan vigilantes. Other socialists, however, remained committed to the cause of workersâ€™ democracy, and continued their work in defiance of unconstitutional laws violating Oklahomansâ€™ freedom of speech and assembly.
In 1919, the Communist Party was formed in the United States and, by the 1930s it had swelled to over 80,000 members nationwide. Across the nation, support for Communism was growing, but the Party was deprived of the rights of other political parties, and while the CPUSA had never advocated violent revolution or any illegal activities, the Justice Department hounded Communists across the country.
In Oklahoma, Communists were harassed, their property was confiscated. Many Party members were arrested on fraudulent charges and, in Oklahoma City as in other places, Communists were framed by crooked police who were also members of the Ku Klux Klan.
For decades, the brutality inflicted on Communist Party members in Oklahoma deterred any socialist organizations from reforming. Racists accused Communists of being part of a Zionist plot. During the 1950s-1960s, the Communist Party was a staunch supporter of the civil rights movement, incurring the wrath of the Christian right and other racist organizations.
Communists were accused of being agents for the Soviet Union (a spurious claim, which has since been refuted by evidence retrieved from former Soviet archives). But today, in the absence of a world power like the Soviet Union, authentic Oklahoma Communists are freer than ever to articulate their conviction that a better world â€“ a world of peace and equality â€“ is possible through socialism.
In 2011, the Communist Party of Oklahoma was reformed and launched its new website and a newsletter, The Oklahoma Workersâ€™ Monthly, revealing that the spirit of socialism is a truly organic feature of Oklahomaâ€™s independent and creative spirit. Today, members of the Communist Party remain the most advanced frontline fighters defending the rights of working people. In addition, Communists organize to create economic and political alternatives to the corporate agenda that controls both the Democratic and Republican parties.
SOLVING PROBLEMS TOGETHER WITH A LIVING THEORY Communist theory is more than an ideology; it is a method of understanding reality while analyzing and solving real problems. Communists hold that – in order to understand ourselves – we must understand our history, but also recognize that the forces of the past do not confine us to our present condition. Rather, by elevating our consciousness with an understanding of the various historical, economic and cultural forces at work in shaping our world and our thoughts about the world, we can change the course of human history and improve our society.
Karl Marx applied this method and brought two great philosophical traditions together to create a qualitatively new science which became known as “dialectical and historicalmaterialism.” As a student of German philosopher G.F.W. Hegel, Marx agreed that ideas and history develop in accordance with certain laws. First, according to Hegel, in order 8
to understand human ideas and human history we must strive for a totality of knowledge. In other words, people should strive to know all that is knowable. In addition, Hegel argued that everything is always changing and evolving and that conflict between old and new ideas fuel changes. Therefore, to understand the world and human kind, you must strive to understand the processes which lead to changes and development. Marx, however, built on this theory by arguing that it is not ideas alone that drive changes in the world, but material changes in the world that change ideas. According to Marx’s science, matter predates thought and the brain precedes ideas. Therefore, in order to understand the origins of ideas, we have to understand the history of matter. Marx argued that it is not enough to simply speculate about the way the world ‘should’ be; rather, he argued that we must first understand why the world is the way it is. He argued that people must study their own history and accept that their ideas, behaviors and beliefs are the products historical processes. In other words, Marx argued that reality is knowable, but it is not fixed – it is always changing. Therefore, to understand reality, one must understand the history of the material processes that encourage change. Marx contended that change and development occur in accordance with the material needs of the majority of human beings. He argued that ideologies and methodologies must also adapt to new circumstances in order to survive. According to Marx, if the structures of human society are adjusted to be in harmony with new circumstances, mankind flourishes: however, if 9
the structures of society do not adapt to suit the survival needs of the species, society collapses. Therefore, Marx’s theory takes on additional political and economic dimensions by analyzing how exploitation affects the people and drives historical change. He points out that the exploiter forces the exploited into revolt; however, revolt does not necessarily produce beneficial results for humanity. At times, uprisings destroy the structures of human society entirely, causing mankind to descend into chaos. A revolution that is beneficial to all of mankind must be conscious of its mutual interests and work to replace the existing exploitative structures with a system based on cooperation. In essence, Marx’s dialectical and historicalmaterialist theory fused Greek materialism – the philosophy of Epicurus and the stoics – with the dialectical philosophy of Hegel. This scientific approach to understanding the human conditions is what delineates Marxist socialism from other unscientific or “utopian” forms of socialism and anti-capitalism. Communist theory, in this sense, is a living theory that adapts to an ever changing reality.
ON THE QUESTION OF “HUMAN NATURE” We have all heard the common cliché that “Communism is a nice idea in theory, but it doesn’t work in practice because Communism contradicts human nature.” The trouble with this criticism is that it hinges on the philosophy
that human nature is “selfish.” This has been an idea so deeply ingrained in Western philosophy that it operates on an almost unconscious level. In reality, however, there is no science to support this claim – therefore, the capitalist critique of socialism retains deeply religious Western dogmas oftentimes without even knowing it. Specifically, Western Christianity inherited the idea that mankind is of a “fallen nature” from the African prelate Augustine of Hippo. Augustine invented the idea of “Original Sin”, which teaches that humans are evil by nature – an idea that was never a feature of pre-Augustinian Christianity. Augustine’s Christian contemporaries and other theologians argued that Original Sin is a refutation of Christianity – that God does not “create evil” and that free will allows mankind to turn-away from sin. Augustine’s views on “Original Sin” faded into obscurity until they were resurrected by Charlemagne, king of the Carolingian Franks, during the Dark Ages in order to justify the establishment of the feudal system. Charlemagne needed theological justification to validate his assumption of the throne and to spread Frankish domination throughout Europe, so he created a theology to support it – a theology that now operates under the historical misnomer of Roman Catholicism. Catholicism served the purposes of feudalism by teaching that people are evil and selfish by nature, but that some (namely Church clergy and those of “noble” blood) are chosen by God to steward the “evil” people. Therefore, according to Frankish (Western) Christianity, the most pious act a Christian could perform is submission to the dominant class.
Today, this Frankish religious idea lives on even in Western liberal ideologies. We are taught that capitalism is the best system because it pits mankind in a constant battle of “all against all” which prevents any group from gaining too much power. In reality, however, we see that capitalism accelerates the consolidation of power by encouraging self-interested competition and the centralization of wealth. Communist theory, however, breaks definitively from the philosophical premise that mankind is selfish by nature. On the contrary, science is revealing more clearly every day that mankind is actually empathic by nature, and – as Thomas Paine rightly hypothesized in Common Sense – only circumstances – not “nature” – cause people to behave in selfish and exploitative ways. Therefore, Communism strives to create new circumstances – namely, a social structure and culture which fosters cooperation and harmony rather than service to the self. In this way, Communist theory does not contradict the teaching of Jesus; rather, Communism exposes the hypocrisy in the false Christianity practiced under capitalism.
Here, it may be useful to bring up another common criticism that Communists encounter: that is, the idea that Communism seeks to establish a “perfect world” or “utopia.” This is a misinterpretation of Communist theory. As scientific socialists using Marx’s dialectical and historical-materialist method of analysis and critique for problem solving, Communists strive to solve existing problems. The Communist Party does not strive to create a utopia in accordance with an imagined vision of an idealistic future: rather, Communists strive to solve real existing problems, while examining human society for what it is, recognizing and acting upon the full potential of the community of working people. Therefore, when today’s Communists are criticized because certain Communist states failed to create perfect societies, the critic is revealing his or her misunderstanding of Communist theory. The Soviet Union, Communist China, Cuba and other socialist states and Communist Parties certainly
did not create perfect societies – but they did create societies that are and remain far better off than they were under the rule of previous ruling classes. And as any Communist will readily admit, there is always room for improvement. But the Communist also argues that the dialectical and historical-materialist approach to problem solving is still the most effective, scientific and advanced analytical theory for solving social and economic problems – even those that persist within “Communist” countries.
THE COMMUNIST VIEW OF GOVERNMENT AND THE AIMS OF SOCIALISM Contrary to popular misconceptions, the Communist Party’s “end game” is not the establishment of a socialist government. Governments, as we have known them under both capitalist and socialist powers, are conceivably unnecessary. However, the Communists view governments as an instrument – a tool for one class to suppress another class. Under capitalism, government is used by capitalists to suppress and perpetuate the exploitation of the working-class. Therefore, in order for the working-class to have legitimate democratic sovereignty, the state must be taken away from the capitalist powers. But it is not enough to simply “abolish” the state, as some “anti-government” extremists would argue. If, for example, a government is overthrown by revolution or collapses due to
corruption and inefficiency, a power vacuum is created. Historically, this void has often been filled by a form of dictatorship sponsored by the wealthiest and most brutal surviving powers. In other scenarios following the collapse of a government, chaos ensues and regional warlords impose their will through violence, as is the case with many existing “failed states.” Recognizing these historical facts, the Communists do not seek to “abolish” government. We Communists do believe that a stateless society is possible; however, it is only possible once working people have developed their own democratic structures for local selfmanagement and are capable of cultivating their own productive capacity free from capitalist interference. Therefore, the first step toward a stateless, Communist society is overthrowing the capitalists’ control of the existing government. The second phase toward Communism – socialism – entails the training of working people. This involves teaching workers how to create and sustain their own alternative, democratically driven political and economic structures for the benefit of the majority of society (the working-class). To accomplish this, Communists redirect the profit resources that once benefited the tiny elite minority of capitalists and invest them in education – specifically health and training programs designed to provide working people the skills to develop themselves. Communists argue for the confiscation of private companies that control natural resources and energy so that their management structures can be reconfigured to serve the public good rather than private profit. 15
In addition, during the socialist phase of government, working people are also encouraged to train for self-defense to ensure that the displaced exploiter class of capitalists remains incapable of retaking control of society. Communists argue that then, only after a period of education, training and cooperative economic development, will government and its structures become irrelevant. In this sense, the Communists share the libertarian impulse that rejects coercive governance, but is practical in its application of this principle. We recognize that minimal government is possible and desirable, but only as people come to recognize the need for cooperation and communal advancement as a means to individual fulfillment.
PUTTING WORKING-PEOPLE FIRST or â€œWORKING-CLASS PARTISANSHIPâ€? People all over the world are suffering from a myriad of problems due to the unchecked power of global capitalism. War, racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry and exploitation of every kind are rampant. However, the Communists make the distinction between problems which result from capitalist exploitation and the problem of capitalist exploitation itself. In order to defeat all forms of exploitation, people must be empowered. To truly be empowered means not relying on an external authority for food, information or defense. For example, in order to end racism, it
is not enough to simply appeal to the benevolence of racists. It is necessary to restructure the system so that no person is ever capable of exploiting another person – regardless of their opinions on race, gender, etc. Therefore, the Communist goal is to focus all our revolutionary energy on eliminating the distinctions between classes. Making appeals to an exploiter’s humanity and benevolence are well and good, but it may be impossible to change what exists in a person’s heart. On the other hand, it is possible to restructure society so that no person can be exploited – regardless of race, class, gender, etc. Therefore, Communists focus on attacking exploitation by attacking it at its root and encourage all to focus on the source of exploitation in addition to its symptoms. This is a fundamental distinction between liberalism and Communism: liberals argue for benevolence toward the exploited; Communists, in contrast, argue not for benevolence but for empowerment. In this way, the Communists are the most advanced fighters for racial and gender equality because we commit ourselves fully to ending all exploitation. This is what is meant when we Communists say, “We are partisans on the side of the working-class.” In other words, we Communists do not advocate “giving a man a fish”; rather, we advocate teaching all workingpeople how to fish and how to keep the capitalist class from stealing the fish they catch.
INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY The Communist Party is a party that supports the exploited people of the world – not just of the United States. We believe that an injury to one working person anywhere is a denigration and affront to human dignity and democracy everywhere. In other words, “An injury to one is an injury to all.” Capitalism is an international system. Those who control the capitalist system have more power than any national government. The decisions they make impact the lives of every person in the world. For this reason, the problems faced in each country share a common source and require inclusive solutions. As Thomas Paine wrote in the introduction to Common Sense: “The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind. Many circumstances hath, and will arise, which are not local, but universal, and through which the principles of all Lovers of Mankind are affected, and in the Event of which, their Affections are interested The laying a Country desolate with Fire and Sword, declaring War against the natural rights of all Mankind, and extirpating the Defenders thereof from the Face of the Earth, is the concern of every Man to whom Nature hath given the Power of feeling…” After the American Revolution the capitalist class used its new-found “freedom” from monarchism to serve itself – not the people. Industrial giants began expanding their 18
influence into new lands and intensifying their exploitation of various peoples and natural resources. The American Revolution – the revolution for the freedom of all mankind – was corrupted. Therefore, in order to fulfill the promises of the American Revolution, the Communist Party sees it necessary to extend the democratic rights and privileges to all working people. This is why Marx wrote: “Working people of all countries, unite!” Working people have different nationalities and different cultural identities, but they also share common problems. Therefore, a cooperative approach to solving these problems requires international solidarity.
DISCIPLINED, DEMOCRATIC Membership in the Communist Party is open to anyone over the age of 18 who accepts the aims, rules and policy of the Party, pays their dues and works in a Party organization. The basic organization of the Party is the Branch – also known as a “club.” All members are allocated to the most appropriate branch for them. They are encouraged to participate fully in the branch’s work, in order to pool experience, to deepen their own understanding of political affairs and the dialectical-historical materialist approach to addressing social issues and solving social problems. Through inclusive discussion and activity, the Party works to raise the consciousness of its members and assist them in their effort to 19
become the change they wish to see in the world. Our Party strives to lead, above all, by example. It is our objective to bring the Communist analysis and energy to the workplace and the community – to illustrate alternatives to exploitation and teach efficient democratic planning, community self-reliance, and the benefits of a cooperative approach to prosperity. Teaching strategy, giving support to working people in their day-to-day lives, and striving to build a broad democratic anti-monopoly alliance in order to secure fundamental political and economic change: that is the mission of the Communist Party today. An essential element of Party discipline is that members pay regular dues. In addition, Party members are encouraged to study Party literature and to contribute to discussions on matters of interest both to the national Party organization and to local working-class people. The Party provides writing and journalism workshops with the objective of fostering open, unbiased, objective journalism to inform and empower workers through the cultivation of peoples’ – rather than private (corporate) – media.
THE YOUNG COMMUNIST LEAGUE The Communist Party youth organization is the Young Communist League (YCL). Its age limits are 12-26. Although the YCL supports the Party’s program, it is organizationally
independent, deciding its own policy and activities, controlling its own finances and electing its own leadership.
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