Thomas Paine: A Revolutionary Light

Thomas Paine, with fiery passion and revolutionary fortitude distributed his literature throughout the first 13 colonies with the penalty of treason on his head. Agitation swept the American workers and farmers into a heap and energized them enough to take up arms in the ranks of a colonial militia against the world’s most powerful empire. Tom is mostly forgotten and only brought back to recollection with the ramblings of Glenn Beck and his knock-off cooption of Paine’s revolutionary pamphlet. Thomas Paine though, laid the foundations for American Democracy in its youngest form. In the modern USA it is obvious that the American rhetoric was owned by the landed interests and did not meet the stated assurances of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. As Communists, we are compelled to weigh the rhetoric of American Democracy against its realization in material ways. Marx explains:

People cannot be liberated, as long as they are unable to obtain food and drink, housing and clothing in adequate quality and quantity. ‘Liberation’ is a historical and not a mental act and it is brought about by historical conditions.

Looking at the statistics of atrocities the conditions seem bleak; over 20 transwomen were murdered in 2015, the rising rate of youth homelessness and intense wealth disparities, just to name a few, are telltale signs that the American experiment was not a result of a revolution carried out to its conclusion. But what if lying inside the many sectors of American liberal thought, resides a pure Democratic-Republican that sought collective unity and welfare, the state as an instrument of People’s rule in a very simplistic majoritarian sense and a conception of justice as equal right and opportunity to the world’s resources? This would break our dogmatic slumber away from the slave owning patriarchs of Washington, Hamilton and Madison.

Thomas Paine gave passionate words to the world’s peasants and poor and prophetically proclaimed that the American Revolution as the first of its kind and will roll violently into every Monarchial state and dismantle it acting in the spirit of the people towards a point of justice; seeing the great victory of the American merchants and peasants over the King. Paine was certainly correct about Democracy spreading and toppling Monarchy; the European reforms and the French Revolution were certainly a carryover of the Revolutionary American experience. Thomas Paine in Common Sense wrote to each common American, and explained the very heart of the problem of colonial tyranny. Hundreds of thousands of copies were read in coffee houses and taverns all over American, spreading the Democratic ideal to everyone and instigating a popular movement to establish a nation-wide consciousness and reveal to the people the real nature of the King and his parliament. Paine enticed the American population to take up arms and to use the power of the majority to move the hand of tyranny off their edge of the map. Marx and Engels said that the American Revolution had “initiated a new era of ascendancy for the middle class” and considered the American Civil War to be the continuation of the Democratic revolution of 1776. If Thomas Paine’s recommendations for a policy of human welfare and equal right had been implemented, and the Democratic revolution be felt by every citizen, maybe the contradictions between human rights and capital in the American Civil War would not have existed, and the USA could have progressed without the violent breaking point that cost so many millions of American and immigrant lives. This is all hindsight of course, but Tom Paine, long forgotten and not considered believed the American revolution had objectives and a positive responsibility to create Democratic-Republicanism in real, palpable way without the influence of Primogeniture and profit motive.

Thomas Paine then went to take on the slave-owners as a radical and claimed the issue should appeal to Justice and Humanity:

That some desperate wretches should be willing to steal and enslave men by violence and murder for gain, is rather lamentable than strange. But that many civilized, nay, Christianized people should approve, and be concerned in the savage practice, is surprising; and still persist, though it has been so often proved contrary to the light of nature, to every principle of Justice and Humanity, and even good policy, by a succession of eminent men, and several late publications.

Thomas Paine interestingly enough precluded the ideas of the Great French Revolution and was even its root. He defended in his Rights of Man the radical idea that human rights are inalienable and that a sovereign has no right to dictate the amount nor degree of their realization; realization stemming from the collective power of people’s government. Paine even goes on to refute Hereditary rule by stating, much like Marx would, that the State apparatus is created by human beings and can bend to their liking, and fit into the most efficient manner so far as the collective had the knowledge of how to do it. Paine argued that humankind began without security but to assure individual power, formed into governments for the sole purpose of preserving humanity and justice. The idealistic opinions of Paine, nonetheless grew into more concrete policy recommendations. He went as far as to recommend subsidized schooling for the nation’s poor, a guaranteed welfare standard, maternity leave for mothers and the burden of taxation be shifted onto the capable backs of America’s merchants and land owners.

Thomas Paine also was a man of virtue and a steadfast revolutionary and American patriot. With echoes of Comrade Mao’s infamous statement “It is right to rebel”, Paine asserts the natural reaction of alienation and detachment from civil rights and welfare by saying
It is possible to exclude men from the right of voting, but it impossible to exclude them from the right of rebelling against that exclusion; and when other rights are taken away, the right of rebellion is made perfect.

Paine throughout his life was an oppositional force. Even though Paine was an honorary French citizen and was presented symbolically with the Key to the prison Bastille; he served prison time in France for opposing the faction that executed the King of France and for denouncing the “reign of terror” on pacifist grounds. But even before that, in his early life, Paine began organizing a labor union in England and was eventually dismissed form his government position as tax collector for spreading and writing literature advocating better wages and conditions for his coworkers.

Thomas Paine is infamously called the Father of the American Revolution but he is peculiarly left out of the group of founders of the United States. The reason is obvious. In Thomas Paine’s day his radical ideas got overridden by the powerful bourgeois, moderate liberalism that dominated the politics of the early US period. His ideas were the very wind blowing into the forge of revolution, growing the fire and its violence and passion. He spoke the words the common American could not and this popular outcry against the King and his rich loyalists was convenient for the American Bourgeoisie who also allied against the King. But, as soon as Great Britain was driven from these colonies the interests of the rich took hold of the reins of government and established one in their own image. Paine’s ideas
were forgotten and the evils of slavery and patriarchy, the hegemony of the rich over the poor, the Anglos over the natives began, and this nation’s fathers stopped the momentum of the American revolution. Thomas Paine said fight till welfare and justice are won for every citizen regardless of race or gender. Until the Democratic ideal is realized in the lives of every person; when the Republic exists on peaceful terms internally and will work as a collective to prop up each other and progress the rights of humankind. Only till then can there be a proper government and only then will the revolution be finished.

Thomas Paine will leave us today with a reminder and insight into the nature of the State and what we know about governments. He said:

Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.

Engels said very much the same thing:

The state is nothing but an instrument of oppression of one class by another – no less so in a democratic republic than in a monarchy.

Once contradictions are resolved, and the antagonism and exploitation is abolished in the minds and the mechanisms of human kind, government will be relegated to the junkyard of history and Communism will be realized. The idealism of Thomas Paine still gives us hope as Americans and reminds us of the following:

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends [life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness], it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness.

It seems increasingly clear that a new government must be instituted and we evoke this sacred American document as its defense. Fight for a government that secures for each a job, an income, a home, insurance, food, water and all things essential to the flourishing of a just and dignified society. For Socialism and the finalization of the Democratic-American revolution!

How the PCUSA Has Improved My Life

By: O’Connell

Back in 2014, I was an ill-informed and opportunist anarcho-communist. I wanted to change the lives of the all oppressed and working people but I was skeptical of government, I aligned with the anarcho-communists only in that regard. However unlike the anarcho-communists I understood the importance of the transition state, aka socialism.

It would not be long I come in contact with the Party of Communists USA, and reached out with enthusiasm to the Secretariat. He tells me that the organization is a Marxist-Leninist (ML) organization and they hold to that line. However even despite such he still sent me an introduction package with ML literature, which, after taking the time to read, I started questioning and opposing my previous position as a anarcho-communist. As the Secretariat sent me more literature, and I took the time to study ML stances on my own, I soon started transitioning to becoming a Marxist-Leninist. I did what I did before, before I became a anarcho-communist, I spent probably close to 5 months just studying ML ideology, and sooner or later, I became a firm ML cadre member of the party. During this period I was also teaching two other friends of mine who basically labeled me their teacher, after a year they became a ML just like me. Now they organize alongside me.

After so long I continued to grow my knowledge and Marxist library, I started getting involved in commissions in my party and trying to produce for it what I could and do what I could to see it advanced. Truly I have watched the PCUSA grow to a strong, well principled cadre organization.

Now, today, I am part of its leadership and organizing activists seeking to not only strengthen it but push it forward as our political demographics in America change from the average centrist position. To make the PCUSA the leading anti-imperialist, anti-revisionist, Marxist-Leninist vanguard for the working class and oppressed people of America.

Now that I have explained my story, how do I know my party is on the right path, that it is principled and firm to its theory, that it takes care of its members and helps them learn and builds dedication in the cadre to the movement?

Because I am an example of it.

A Brief History of Youth Leagues in the American Communist Movement

YOUNG COMMUNIST LEAGUE OF AMERICA
The split of the Socialist Party of America in 1919 affected its youth section, the Young People’s Socialist League (YPSL), as well. A segment of the organization departed its ranks amidst the controversy, while the organization attempted to steer to a position of neutrality between the warring factions of American Communism, the Communist Party of America and the Communist Labor Party of America. While both of those organizations approved the operation of a youth section in principle, in practice they had other pressing concerns and did nothing along that line. Loyalists to the SPA attempted to regain the organization for the mother organization, and amidst factional rancor and financial poverty, the national organization dissolved, as did most of the local units of the organization.
It was not until the 2nd Convention of the United Communist Party [Kingston, NY, Jan. 1921] that a serious effort was made to establish a Young Communist League of America. The convention resolution may be downloaded here. “H. Edwards” was appointed national organizer by the party, provisional rules and first leaflets were drawn up, and organizational work was begun in all the major cities in which the UCP had a presence. By April of 1921, the YCLA claimed that “about 20 groups” were “definitely organized.”
[fn. “H. Edwards,” Report to the 2nd World Congress of the YCi,” NARA M-1085, reel 939, doc. 122.]

1. Founding Convention YCLA — Bethel, CT — April 20, 1922.
It was not until April of 1922 — after the United Communist Party had joined the Communist Party of America to form the unified “Communist Party of America, Section of the Communist International” — that a convention was held for the YCLA. The underground gathering was held in Bethel, Connnecticut on April 20, 1922. The underground YCL remained in existence throughout 1922 and into 1923, duplicating the role of the underground CPA vis-a-vis its legal arm, the Workers Party of America.
[fn. Theodore Draper, The Roots of American Communism (NY: Viking, 1957), pg. 344.]

YOUNG WORKERS LEAGUE OF AMERICA

1. First National Convention YWLA — Brooklyn, NY — May 13-15, 1922.
The Founding Convention of the Young Workers League of America approved a manifesto, program, a set of resolutions, and a constitution for the organization. Membership in the organization was open to “all proletarians” between the ages of 14 and 30. There were originally no constitutional links between the YWL and the Workers Party of America — ostensibly its parent organization.
The YWL was to hold annual conventions, governed in between these events by a National Executive Committee of 7, of whom at least 5 were to be residents of the city in which headquarters were located. Five alternates were also chosen, to be filled into the NEC as vacancies arose according to the order of votes received for each alternate. Chicago was chosen as the headquarters city by the founding convention and the group maintained its first headquarters at 1145 Blue Island Avenue, Room 9, Chicago, IL.
The 1st Convention elected the following officers:
National Secretary: Martin Abern.
National Executive Committee: ??? (x 7).
NEC Alternates: ??? (x 5).
The YWL published The Young Worker as its official organ. It also had a “Junior Section” for children between the ages of 8 and 14, for whom a small monthly magazine called The Young Comrade was published.

2. 2nd National Convention YWLA — Chicago, IL — May 20-22, 1923.
The 2nd Convention of the YWLA approved a set of resolutions on International Relations, the Economic Demands of Youth, Education, Miliatarism, Sports, Press, Foreign Language Sections, and the Relationship of the YWL to the Workers Party of America. It also adopted a “Thesis on the Organization of Shop Nuclei,” faulting the territorial form of organization for a failure to make connection with the masses of youth and calling for a restructuring of the organization on a shop basis.
The 2nd Convention elected the following officers:
National Secretary: John Williamson.
National Executive Committee: ??? (x 7).
NEC Alternates: ??? (x 5).

At the end of 1923, the YWL claimed (rather optimistically, it would seem) a membership of about 4,000, organized in 150 branches spread across 100 cities. A membership for the Junior Section of 2,000 in about 30 cities was also asserted. Both of these extremely round figures are to be regarded with suspicion until documentary evidence as to the actual size of the dues-paying membership comes to light.
At the end of 1924, the YWL claimed a membership of between 3,500 and 4,000 in 150 branches. The above caution as to the veracity of this number applies.

3. 3rd National Convention YWLA — Chicago, IL — Oct. 4-6, 1925.
The 3rd Convention of the YWL was marked by a severe factional split between supporters of William Z. Foster and of C.E. Ruthenberg that paralleled the split in the adult party. The report of the credientials committee seating a majority of the Ruthenberg groups delegates was approved by a margin of 29-20. In the debate on the report, Jack Stachel of the Ruthenberg group declared that the YWL had a membership estimated at between 1800 and 1900 and claimed majority support for his faction.
James P. Cannon spoke to the convention about his differences with Foster. William Z. Foster also addressed the gathering, concluding his speech with the words “I am for the Comikntern from start to finish… and if the Comintern finds itself cris-cross with my opinions, there is only one thing to do and that is to change my opinions to fit the policy of the Comintern.” Max Bedacht reported for the Ruthenberg majority group, which was the majority faction of the CEC of the WPA.
The 3rd Convention elected a 20 member National Executive Committee consisting of 10 members from each faction. The officers were as follows:
National Secretary: Samuel Darcy.
National Executive Committee:
Joseph Angelo, Samuel Darcy, Samuel Don, John Harvey, William Herberg, Nat Kaplan, Valeria Metz, George Papcun, H.V. Phillips, Max Salzman, Al Schaap, Max Shachtman, Peter Shapiro, Morris Schindler, William Schneiderman, Jack Stachel, Patrick Toohey, John Williamson, Sam Winocur, Herbert Zam.
During 1925 the Young Pioneers’ League of America was established for children under 14 years of age, replacing the Junior Section of the YWL. The YPLA’s magazine was a monthly entitled The Young Comrade.

YOUNG WORKERS (COMMUNIST) LEAGUE OF USA

Youth Conference — Bellaire, OH — Feb. 28, 1926.

Youth Conference — New York, NY — March 5, 1926.

Pioneer Camps and YWL Summer Schools
The Workers Party’s first youth summer school was held in 1925 at Waino, Wisconsin. About 50 students attended and the program lasted for four weeks.
The Finnish Federation, the largest in the WPA, adopted the summer schools as an important task. During the summer of 1926 the YWL ran a national school in Chicago, with 16 students, as well as three district schools, based in Waino, WI; Waukegan, IL; and Winchedon, MA. These schools conducted full-time 5 week program of courses at Waino, 4 weeks at the other schools. Approximately 140 youngsters attended.
The Young Pioneers, the junior section of the YWL, held three summer camps in 1926, in Chicago, New York City, and Boston, attended by 700 to 800 children.

During the summer of 1927 there were four district schools held — Boston, Ohio, Waino, WI, and Winlock, WA. The Wisconsin and Washington schools conducted an ambitious 6 week program, while the other two schools conducted a 5 week program. Approximately 160 young communists took part. As you may discern from the photos of Waino (above) and Winlock (below), the average age of participants varied substantially between specific summer schools. In an essay which he wrote for the 1927 Yearbook of the Winlock School, Director Oliver Carlson advocated a rather older rather than younger average age, stating that “the boy or girl of 14, 15, or 16 years who is still in school has not as yet been forced to shift for himself, to make his own living, and to feel the pressure of the class struggle. To such a one the class war and all other theories relating to it cannot be duly appreciated.”

The Pacific Northwest school was held at Winlock, WA from July 10 to Aug. 20, 1927 and was attended by 42 students — 24 girls and 18 boys. Age of participants ranged from 14 to 23, with the great bulk between 15 and 18. The students followed the following topics: Sociology, American Social and Labor History, Marxian Economics, Class Struggle History and Theory, Imperialism, Problems of Socialist Reconstruction, Cooperation, Current Events, Public Speaking, and Theory and Practice of Young Workers’ Organization. 28 of the students came from 15 towns in Washington state and 13 students came from 6 towns in Oregon. In addition, there was one participant from Rock Springs, WY. Of the participants, 23 were members of the YWL, 1 was a member of the W(C)PA, and 19 were non-party. As funding for the camp was raised through the pages of the Astoria, OR communist newspaper Toveri, it should come as no surprise that nearly of the participants had clearly Finnish surnames. Director of the Winlock school was Oliver Carlson, who had been involved in earlier party youth schools in New York, Chicago, and Wisconsin.

Classes began at 9 am and carried through until 2:50 pm, with an hour for lunch. Students had additional less formally directed activity, which included research, recreation, songs, and athletics until 4:30 pm. Monday Evenings were spent in YWL nuclei meetings, Friday evenings featured lectures, and plays and entertainment took place on other evenings.
The students elected a six member discipline committee, which set rules for the school, times that students were to be in their quarters, and so on. A chart headed “Roll of Dishonor” was posted to note rulebreakers and thereby maintain discipline.
Five Young Pioneers summer camps were held in 1927, located in the Boston, New York, Ohio, Detroit, and Chicago districts.
Information about 1928 is less complete. At a minimum, there was once again a party summer school held in Woodland, Washington attended by 54 students — 30 girls and 24 boys. The School was held from June 24 through August 4, 1928. The composition was rather older than the 1927 Pacific Northwest school, with 11 students between the ages of 25 and 34. Washington remained the home of the greatest percentage of students (21 of the 54), closely followed by a contingent of 20 from California (11 from Los Angeles, 9 from Northern California). An additional 12 students were from Oregon and 1 hailed from Vancouver, British Columbia. It seems that in contrast to 1927, almost all participants were members of the YW(C)L or the Workers (Communist) Party (35 and 15, respectively). Only a minority of participants had Finnish surnames, again in contrast to the 1927 school.
In addition to director Oliver Carlson, a cook and a technical manager, three instructors joined the faculty: Marion Gray (Agitprop Director of District 12), Al Schaap (District 12 Organizer), and Frank Waldron [Eugene Dennis] (Subdistrict Agitprop Director in District 13). Student committees were formed for athletics, entertainment, photography, library, publicity, wall newspaper, student annual, and discipline.
On the 4th of July, students were transported by truck to the opening of Tualatin Park, 8 miles south of Portland. Revolutionary songs were sung and public speeches were delivered by Henry Routtu (on the YWL), Fred Walker (on Workers Education), and Rose Rubin (on the significance of July 4th to the working class). The students also took a field trip to a non-union lumber mill in Longview, Washington on July 11th. A group of students also agitated against militarism at Vancouver, Washington that same day at a Citizens Military Training Camp.
Plans were set in motion to establish a similar school in California the following summer.

According to the 1930 edition of The American Labor Yearbook, the Young Communist League “based on dues payments” had a membership of about 500 in 1926, 700 in 1927, and 1,860 for the first ten months of 1928. As this is a hostile source, these numbers should be regarded with caution until verifcation with internal documents is possible.

4. 4th National Convention YW(C)L USA — New York, NY — October 30-XX, 1927.
A partial list of delegates published in The Young Worker issue of Nov. 1, 1927 included:
D1 (Boston): Kay, Shohan, Kangas. D2 (New York): Plot, J. Harrison, Miller, Rubenstein. D3 (Philadelphia): Bender, Feldman, Carroll. D5 (Pittsburgh): Minerich, Jaffe. D7 (Detroit): Joe Roberts. D8 (Chicago): Lurye, Glotzer, Green, Novack. D9 (Superior/Twin Cities): Tenhunen, Boverky, Bernick, Sankary. WPA: Bedacht, Wolfe, Stachel, Weinstone, Bittelman.

5. 5th National Convention YW(C)L USA — New York, NY — April 26-XX, 1929.
The 5th National Convention changed the name of the organization to “Communist Youth League of USA.” The change was short-lived, as by the 6th Convention the name of the organization had changed yet again, to “Young Communist League of USA.”
The main report was delivered by Herbert Zam, who spoke on “The Report of the NEC, the Struggle Against the Right Danger, the Position of the Young Workers, and the Tasks of the League.” An organizational report was also delivered by Sam Darcy.

YOUNG COMMUNIST LEAGUE OF THE USA

6. 6th National Convention YCL USA — New York, NY — July 4-XX, 1931.
The 6th National Convention was attended by 63 delegates, 16 alternates, 17 members of the National Executive Committee, and 17 fraternal delegates. According to statistics published in The Young Worker, this group was said to include 69 members who were 22 years old or younger and to be comprised of 61 native-born whites, 10 native-born blacks, and 18 foreign-born.

“July Plenum” — New York, NY? — July XX-XX, 1933.

7. 7th National Convention YCL USA — New York City? — June 22-27, 1934.

8. 8th National Convention YCL USA — New York City — May 2-5, 1937.

9. 9th National Convention YCL USA — New York City — May 11-15, 1939.

sources: American Labor Year Book. (NY: Rand School of Social Science, various dates), 1923-24: pp. 166-167. 1925: pp. 165-166. 1926: pp. 254-256. 1927: pp. 135-136. 1930: pg. 142. 1932: pp. 116-117. The Young Worker (1927-1929), passim. Red Dawn: Commencement Annual of the Northwest Young Workers Summer School. (Astoria, OR: Pacific Development Society, 1927). Red Student: Commencement Annual of the Pacific Coast Workers Summer School. (Astoria, OR: Pacific Development Society, 1928).