In the early 1970s, when I was young, a leader in the Communist Party warned me of the dangers of sectarian practices, wishful thinking, and overheated rhetoric when it comes to practical politics. Indeed, skipping stages, revolutionary sloganeering, conflating the outlook of millions with that of the left, disdain for center and social democratic forces, an allergy to compromise and mainstream electoral politics, cherry picking, even inventing, reality to fit one’s radical disposition and desires, and much more were defining features of sections of the left and to a lesser degree the party at the time, and that remains the case today.

Apropos, in an unappreciated, and largely ignored speech, Gene Dennis, the party’s top leader upon leaving prison in the late 1950s, argued that the main problems — based on his concrete look at the party’s activity over the preceding decade — in the party were “sectarianism and dogmatism.” He called for the formation of a mass party of socialism. Unfortunately, the leadership at that time, while rejecting William Z. Foster’s leftist politics and dogmatic theorizing, didn’t fully sign on to Gene’s analysis and advice. In retrospect, I believe that was a mistake of great consequence in untold ways.