In his first speech upon leaving federal prison in the mid-1950s, Gene Dennis, the General Secretary of the Communist Party at the time, said that the main problems facing the party were dogmatism in its thinking and sectarianism in its practice. He also, bravely in my view, made a pitch for the formation of a mass socialist party.

In retrospect, I believe Gene was onto something, but others in the leadership at the time were of a different mind. Too bad. We missed an opportunity to renovate the party’s thinking and practice.

But, to make matters worse, we did it again 30 years later when a substantial section of the leadership led by Gus Hall looked backward, doubled down, and repeated comfortable formulas as a good chunk of the socialist world was going belly up. This time, I was present. And I’m not proud of my role.

Only later did I rethink my positions, one of which was that marxism, if it is going to be viable and eye opening, has to possess a self-critical/self-reflective capacity. If it doesn’t, it becomes a theology, not a vibrant and open ended way of looking at and changing the world. Much the same could be said about a party or movement of the left.