Peace and national pride go hand in hand

The following is an excerpt of a report to the CPUSA National Committtee Oct. 20 in New York City.

In this era, Communists have to see life and the planet on which we live, work, love, cry, express joy, feel sorrow, bear children and care for the elderly and sick, as precious, fragile and contingent.

We are not pacifists, to be sure, but we are aware of the new dangers to humankind in the 21st century, as well as the violent and bloody history of the previous century.

Thus, we should be the most vigorous advocates of peaceful solutions to humankind’s problems. On our banner should be inscribed a dove and the slogan of peace.

This is not a tactical admonition. It should be a fundamental and strategic concept and value of the Communist movement. Our moral and political authority hangs on it to a large degree.

Which brings me to phrases like “the chickens come home to roost” or “what goes around comes around.” We should leave such statements to Jerry Falwell and his kind.

They are not worthy of the left and progressive movements. They suggest an indifference to life. But don’t we believe that every life – whether Palestinian, Iraqi, Afghani, Russian, Chinese, South African, Colombian, Cuban or American – is equally precious?

In no way do the crimes of U.S. imperialism overseas mitigate the sorrow and tragedy of what occurred on our own soil on Sept. 11. The lives of thousands of innocent people were taken away in a split second and vast numbers of children lost a parent.

The attack was not a blow against imperialism. It was a blow for imperialism. It strengthened the hand of the Bush administration and the ultra right.

I read that a communist in another country said, in reference to the Sept. 11 attack, something like, “We should not laugh and we should not cry.” I think this is morally indefensible, politically bankrupt and harmful.

Such a statement is a caricature of anti-imperialism. It is antithetical to Marxism. It has an anti-American smell to it. The anti-American feeling of peoples around the globe is understandable, but such feelings should be off grounds to communists.

Vietnamese communists, even at the height of the war, always made the distinction between U.S. imperialism and the U.S. people. So do the Cuban communists.

Lenin once said, “There are two nations in every modern nation ... There are two national cultures in every culture.”

On another occasion, he said, “Is a sense of national pride alien to us, Great Russian class conscious proletarians? Certainly not! We love our language and our country, and we are doing our utmost to raise her toiling masses to the level of democratic and socialist consciousness.”

On still another occasion, Lenin wrote, “If a Ukrainian Marxist allows himself to be swayed by this quite legitimate and natural hatred of the Great Russian oppressors to such a degree that he transfers even a particle of this hatred, even if it be only by estrangement, to the proletarian culture and proletarian cause of the Great Russian workers, then such a Marxist will get bogged down in bourgeois nationalism.”

National pride is not, or at least should not be, foreign to U.S. communists and to the rest of the left. We should not have the image of people who think there is barely anything right about our country, that it is fatally flawed in every way. There is nothing revolutionary about such an attitude.

Our country has a democratic and working-class culture in which we can and should have great pride. We make a mistake if we do not embrace this tradition and culture, if we do not see others and ourselves as continuing this tradition. We should not cede love of country, pride in country and inspiration by country to the extreme right.

We don’t advocate unthinkingly wrapping ourselves in the flag and every tradition of our country, but we should not concede our national heritage and symbols so easily. The left and progressive forces are the best patriots and we shouldn’t hesitate to say so.

To be sure, our national flag flew in Saigon on the side of U.S. imperialism, it led the charge up San Juan Hill and it rode into Mexico on a mission of annexation in the mid-19th century.

Though we call for the removal of the Confederate flag from states in the South because of its history and what it represents, I don’t think that we should allow our national flag to be the property of the right.

We should remember that the flag also flew in Normandy in 1944 as our country opened up the second front, it was at Gettysburg in 1864, it was carried into battle by the Lincoln Brigade during the Spanish Civil War and it adorned the speakers’ platform at the historic civil rights march in 1963.

Anti-Americanism has too long been an ideological strain on the left and in our party. It is not a revolutionary concept nor has it anything to do with fighting imperialism. Sometimes it may sound good, and it may even make some people feel self-satisfied. But we’re not immersed in the class struggle to make ourselves feel good. Our aim is to change the world. But to do that we have to reach beyond the left because the left doesn’t make history.

It is only when the left joins with tens of millions that there is a real possibility of isolating the extreme right and its transnational backers and moving the country in a different direction.

Anti-American feelings and slogans may momentarily mobilize some people to take to the streets, but their potential to move beyond narrowly circumscribed limits and to capture the imagination of millions is problematic, to put it mildly.

They are a major and unnecessary concession to the Bush administration. They weaken the fight against imperialism and international terrorism and for a sane policy of peace and justice. It turns people off. Perhaps in the 1960s, when many of us were young radicals, it was understandable, but in the present circumstances anti-American feeling and slogans are harmful.

At the same time, we have to struggle against any influence of national chauvinism in our ranks and beyond us. That constitutes a major challenge at this moment. But we will convince few people of the harmfulness of national arrogance if we betray in our words and deeds an anti-American attitude.

Similarly, communists in other countries do their own struggle no service if they opportunistically give ground on anti-American feeling among their own people.

Consistent anti-imperialism requires a distinction between the U.S. people, on the one hand, and U.S. imperialism and the Bush administration, on the other. But it is precisely this distinction that expressions of anti-American feeling fail to make.