Part of This Series of Posts:

Socialism with American characteristics or SwAC, refers to the idea of building socialism in America. It’s origins come from a play on the term SwCC coined by Deng Xiaoping to refer to the construction of socialism in China (Which itself came from Mao Zedong saying that socialism in China needs to have Chinese characteristics). Although it might be a term, it is not something new as leaders of the CPUSA have been saying this for decades most notably William Z. Foster:

“Socialism in the United States will, out of necessity, have some American characteristics” - William Z. Foster

“We will incorporate U.S. traditions into the structure of socialism that the working class will create” - William Z. Foster

When it comes to the debate around the use of this term (Which was a hot topic a few months back particularly in relation to Caleb Maupin). I definitely side with the people who use it, because I think that the view of SwAC the people who oppose it hold comes from a slander/misinterpretation of what SwCC means in relation to China (usually MLM/Third Worldist). This translates into their view of SwAC, so again like the misconception around the ‘socialist billionaires’ debate, their view comes from a misconception that it goes back to China, except with SwAC it is related to China because it is a play on SwCC, whereas the billionaires argument was not related to China at all.

The main misconceptions around this term is that the term is mutually exclusive with self-determination of the native peoples however this could not be further from the truth. I do not see them as incompatible the way they do, SwAC will address the question of native tribes nationality in a way the current liberal bourgeois establishment cannot. The issue of the loss of native land is a fundamental issue and the treatment of the native peoples that continues today is a contradiction in America hence SwAC would have to fundamentally deal with that contradiction. It is assumed that it would by the name as the point of SwAC is the construction of socialism in America and the negation of the contradictions of the old system. Everyone who believes in SwAC thinks it will involve coming to terms with the effects of colonialism and slavery that persist to this day, but in order to do with we have to abandon the ultra-left rhetoric and aesthetics. In my opinion, we have to build off of the actual positive, progressive aspects of American history and culture, which many self proclaimed ‘Marxists’ do not accept as being real despite America being a reality for hundreds of millions of people who live it day to day.

SwAC is not a system of thought or ideas, it is literally just a slogan for a call to action. Socialism always arises in countries that appear to be too backwards, SwAC means that socialism can only arise out of the national movement and cannot be imported or some kind of non-determinate abstract socialism, it must arise from the ground and soil of America itself, from the people of America.

The point of the phrasing ‘characteristics’ from the term is to call Marxists to innovatively analyse America from a Marxist perspective. America has many characteristics: historical racial oppression and systemic inequality, rural-urban divide, deindustrialised working class, etc. It has the positive and it has the negative, however we do not let the negative negate the postive as we are looking at this from a Marxist viewpoint one predicated on the current material conditions, not one of a depraved calvinist ‘burn it all down’ approach. We seek to build a new from the old order, to ‘sublate’ it as Marx said, not abolish and reject everything from the past. We can only build atop what is already existing.

Personally I think all criticisms come more from misconceptions around the phrasing rather than the substance of the term and I hope to see American comrades work towards building socialism (U.S.S.A. or whatever it would be called wouldn’t matter, what matters is that it would be socialist) in the decades to come.


So now that it is clear that such revolutionary leaders as W.Z. Foster have formulated and supported SwAC, it is clear that there should be no dispute on this line.

Just in case anyone doubts William Z. Foster, he was the leader of the CPUSA for decades, following his ouster (and before) of the revisionist Earl Browder from the party. He led the Communist party for decades during it’s heyday. He came from a union background and under his leadership the Communist party was at the forefront of the labour struggle and the civil rights movement. The party had membership in the hundreds of thousands and it was a significant force in American politics. He popularised ‘Bill of Rights Socialism’ and wrote about how socialism would come to America via the popular front movement of varying different anti-establishment movements and classes in his books ‘The Twilight of World Capitalism’ and ‘Towards Soviet America’. If there is anyone who today the CPUSA should be looking towards as inspiration from the past, it is W.Z. Foster.

Mao Zedong himself was impressed by W.Z. Foster:

“We are glad to learn that the special convention of the Communist Political Association of the United States has resolved to repudiate Browder’s revisionist, that is, capitulationist line, has re-established Marxist leadership and revived the Communist Party of the United States. We hereby extend to you our warm congratulations on this great victory of the working class and the Marxist movement in the United States. Browder’s whole revisionist-capitulationist line (which is fully expressed in his book Teheran) in essence reflects the influence of reactionary U.S. capitalist groups on the U.S. workers’ movement. These groups are now doing their utmost to extend their influence in China too; they are supporting the erroneous policy of the reactionary clique inside the Kuomintang, a policy which is against the interests of the nation and the people, and are thereby confronting the Chinese people with the grave danger of civil war and jeopardising the interests of the peoples of our two great countries, China and the United States. Beyond all doubt the victory of the U.S. working class and its vanguard, the Communist Party of the United States, over Browder’s revisionist-capitulationist line will contribute signally to the great cause in which the Chinese and American peoples are engaged the cause of carrying on the war against Japan and of building a peaceful and democratic world after the war” - (Mao Zedong, Comrade William Z. Foster and the National Committee of the Communist Party of the United States of America)

This should never have been a matter that needed addressing as it is something that should have been obvious. I hope that you found this elaboration useful. If you are American make sure to join the CPUSA and carry the banner forward to victory!

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