Category: About the CPUSA
Review: Adam Hochschild’s ‘Spain in Our Hearts,’ About a Strangely Literary Conflict

Credit Sonny Figueroa/The New York Times

The Spanish Civil War (1936-39) was not a splendid little war. It was an especially vicious one. Some 500,000 people died, most in combat or by political execution. A right-wing coup, led by Francisco Franco and backed by Hitler and Mussolini, toppled a democratically elected government.

It was, though, a strangely literary little war. We remember it today through classic accounts like Hemingway’s novel “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and Orwell’s memoir “Homage to Catalonia.” So many other significant writers and journalists poured into Spain, as observers or participants, it’s hard to keep track of them.

The French novelist André Malraux organized a squadron of volunteer pilots for the anti-Fascist resistance. The aviator and author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry reported for a Paris daily. Hemingway’s suite at the Hotel Floridain Madrid was a boozy hangout for a revolving rat pack of well-groomed foreign correspondents, including Martha Gellhorn, with whom he’d begun an affair. Dorothy Parker, Theodore Dreiser, Langston Hughes and W. H. Auden toured the fighting.

The war resonates visually as well. Robert Capa’s combat photographs are milestones; Picasso’s “Guernica,” painted after the carpet-bombing of that city, is among the most important artworks of our time.

Adam Hochschild’s excellent and involving new book, “Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939,” is not primarily a literary or cultural history. It’s about the moral appeal of the war, about the anti-Fascist and frequently pro-Communist idealism that made so many volunteers from the United States and other countries flood into Spain.

Yet in telling this story, Mr. Hochschild can’t help leaning heavily on the best-written accounts: books, letters, journals. Indeed, his title comes from Albert Camus. “Men of my generation have had Spain in our hearts,” Camus wrote. “It was there that they learned … that one can be right and yet be beaten, that force can vanquish spirit and that there are times when courage is not rewarded.”

What makes his book so intimate and moving is its human scale. Mr. Hochschild follows the paths of a handful or two of American (and occasionally English) volunteers, as well as journalists, and tells the larger story of the war through their tribulations.

These stories are not, in today’s parlance, of the first-person-shooter variety. The resistance was mostly too hapless, too ragtag. We might call these stories first-person shot-at. Orwell’s war ended when he took a bullet in the neck; he stood a towering 6 foot 3, and his head too easily poked over the parapet.

The Spanish Civil War was a forerunner, in a variety of ways, of World War II. Hitler introduced and honed in Spain many weapons the Allies would come to fear, like the German Stuka Ju-87 dive bomber, terrifying for its accuracy and for the dementing sound made by its wind-driven sirens.

World War II has pushed aside the Spanish Civil War in our memories. But Mr. Hochschild reminds us how riveted the world was. “While the fighting lasted, from mid-1936 to early 1939, The New York Times ran more than 1,000 front-page headlines about the war in Spain,” he writes, “outnumbering those on any other single topic, including President Roosevelt, the rise of Nazi Germany or the calamitous toll of the Great Depression.”

Roosevelt refused to involve the United States in this war, later calling its arms embargo a mistake. But some 2,800 Americans went to fight anyway. About 750 of them died there, a higher percentage of participants’ deaths than the United States military suffered in any of its 20th-century wars.

Adam Hochschild Credit Spark Media

The politics of the Spanish Civil War were, and remain, thorny. The appeal of resisting a coup backed by Hitler and Mussolini was apparent. But the defenders of the Republic, because the United States and other countries would not step in, took military aid from the Soviet Union.

This was at a moment when capitalism was in crisis, and disillusion with the Soviet Union, and Stalin, hadn’t fully set in; the Soviet Union’s economic success made it seem like a beacon of hope. Most of the American volunteers in Spain were Communists or Communist sympathizers.

For them, the war in Spain wasn’t merely a chance to rebuff Fascism. It was an opportunity to stand with Spain’s recently elected government, under which workers had taken over hundreds of factories. “Word of such events thrilled radicals abroad,” Mr. Hochschild writes. “Wasn’t this what they had long dreamed of: the people at last seizing the means of production?”

The moral problem, he notes, is that the defenders of the Republic were, in embracing the Soviet Union, “fighting for one of the finest of causes beside one of the nastiest of allies.” He asks: “If you’re in a desperate battle for survival, do you have the luxury of worrying about who your allies are?”

Orwell and Hemingway come alive in this volume. So do the two New York Times reporters, Herbert L. Matthews and William P. Carney, who reported from — and, Mr. Hochschild suggests, sympathized with — opposite sides (Mr. Matthews, the Republic, and Mr. Carney, Franco).

More than a few reporters made no pretense of objectivity. The British journalist Claud Cockburn wrote a fake article about an imaginary battle to make the Republic’s side look stronger than it was. About this trickery, Mr. Hochschild comments, “It worked.”

Mr. Hochschild, a founder of Mother Jones magazine, is the author of seven previous books, including “King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa” (1998), which was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award.

He’s a generally sympathetic observer of this conflict’s journalists, but he can also be stern. He criticizes the herd mentality that led journalists to miss one of the war’s biggest stories — how Franco’s side was propped up with oil delivered by Texaco, at the behest of an executive with Nazi sympathies.

The best stories in “Spain in Our Hearts” tend to be the smaller ones, which the author patiently teases out. We follow a Swarthmore College senior who becomes the first American casualty in the battle for Madrid, for example, and a 19-year-old woman from Kentucky who heads for Spain while on her honeymoon. Details of woe pile up.

These Americans tended to be a bookish lot. Two of them had to buy special gas masks to bring to Spain, Mr. Hochschild writes, the kind that fit over horn-rimmed glasses.

The CPUSA should put its money where its mouth is

by James Thompson

Many people have noted that the leadership of the CPUSA currently is obviously bent on liquidating the party. The tactic that leadership has employed to these ends is to transform the Communist Party into the Democratic Party, thus alienating the membership. What would happen if Pope Francis announced that the Catholic Church would no longer be Catholic and instead would be Baptist? Of course, Catholics would either overthrow the Pope or bail out of the church and form a new church.

Working people are not fools and the CPUSA leadership should not attempt to fool workers in a play to abscond with party resources.

Why not try honesty for a change? Of course, this would be a novel concept to CPUSA leadership.

CPUSA leadership has been blowing out a lot of hot air about organizing mass movements. Anyone who has followed the party over the last 10 years knows that this is pure balderdash.

Now that leadership has jettisoned many party assets such as historical documents, books and other records of party achievements prior to the chairmanship of Sam Webb, advocated dropping communism, socialism and Marxism Leninism from party discussion and advocated the uncritical stance towards the Democratic Party, why not put your money where your mouth is?

The CPUSA has been posting articles very favorable to the Bernie Sanders campaign. If they want to be Democrats, let them be Democrats.

When Billy Bragg rewrote “The International”, he sang “Don’t hold so tight to your possessions because you’ve got nothing if you’ve got no rights!”

CPUSA leadership: “Don’t hang on so tightly to the party resources because you’ve got nothing if you have no credibility!” Don’t fret and worry about your pensions and how much money Elena Mora will need to go shopping and buy new hats! Liberate yourself from your ill-gotten gains! Instead of taking the money and running, give it to a real people’s movement! Donate all of the worker’s money that you clutch so tightly to the Bernie Sanders campaign. Turn over all party property to the campaign. Offer up your lavish, but unused offices in New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles to the Bernie Sanders campaign.

You’ll feel better in the morning if you do this because you can be sure he won’t squander these precious worker’s resources as you have done.


Bernie Sanders Drops A Bomb On Politics As Usual As He Celebrates An Iowa Win


Source: Politicus

Bernie Sanders could have used his speech after the Iowa caucuses to take a victory lap after he virtually tied Hillary Clinton, instead Sanders took aim at politics as usual and used his speech to spread his message.

Bernie Sanders Drops A Bomb On Politics As Usual As He Celebrates An Iowa Win


Bernie Sanders could have used his speech after the Iowa caucuses to take a victory lap after he virtually tied Hillary Clinton. Instead, Sanders took aim at politics as usual and used his speech to spread his message.

Sanders said, “As I think about what happened tonight, I think the people of Iowa have sent a very profound message to the political establishment, to the economic establishment, and by the way to the media establishment. And that is given the enormous crisis facing our country, it is just too late for establishment politics and establishment economics.”

Sanders called out the greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior of Wall Street. He said the American people bailed out Wall Street; now it is time for Wall Street to help the American people. Much of the speech was the standard Sanders talking points and stump speech, but he gave Iowa credit for launching the political revolution.

The Sanders speech was a victory speech. For Bernie Sanders, a tie is a win. This speech was all about Bernie Sanders spreading his message while the entire national media was broadcasting live. Sanders earned the large national platform for his message with an outstanding performance.

Sen. Sanders came into Iowa and went toe to toe with a very good Clinton organization. Bernie Sanders took aim at politics as usual and transformed his online support and network of small donors into a potential win in Iowa. Even after everything has been counted and recounted, what people are going to remember most about the 2016 Democratic caucus is that Bernie Sanders made his political revolution a reality in Iowa.

The CPUSA throws out the baby with the bathwater and then throws out the tub

Response to recent articles by CPUSA leadership

By James Thompson

The USA is in a highly unusual period. There is a global economic crisis which reaches from Asia to the Middle East to Africa to Europe to South America and North America. No capitalist country is immune to this looming disaster. Oil prices are down, inventories are up, sales are down, stockmarkets are down, interest rates are in purgatory, profits are down, unemployment is up and, understandably, the working class is angry.

At the same time, there is no organized communist or socialist movement on the globe. Historically, communist parties around the globe have fought for the interests of the working class. However, at this juncture, no such party or movement is effective or even exists. To some, it might seem that after years of repression, wars and rumors of wars, the working class has capitulated since the bourgeoisie has the workers on their knees.

The CPUSA has distinguished itself by becoming the vanguard party of the bourgeoisie. The so-called leadership of the CPUSA has recently posted a number of articles which are blatantly anti-Communist and anti-socialist. Let’s take a look.

Susan Webb

The first article appeared on January 4, 2016 to welcome in the New Year. It was posted on the People’s World website since the CPUSA no longer has a printed newspaper. It has been reproduced on this blog in an effort to promote public discussion. It was written by Susan Webb who is the ex-wife of former CPUSA chairman, Sam Webb. Sam Webb and his new partner, Elena Mora, have been slowly, meticulously and surely dismantling and liquidating the CPUSA. Ms. Mora recently wrote a letter of resignation from the CPUSA. Susan Webb has been standing by her man (even though he is no longer her man) and at times seems to be attempting to outdo Mr. Webb and Ms. Mora in their efforts to destroy the party. Susan Webb’s article is entitled “Everyone’s talking about socialism, but what is it?”

Ms. Webb’s article sings the praises of Bernie Sanders while condemning the great socialist experiment which was called the Soviet Union. Ms. Webb attempts to outdo the apologists for capitalism by condemning anything which might be considered socialist. She even condemns what she calls “cheesy ‘socialist realism’ paintings.” In doing so, she condemns the likes of Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros, Charles White and John Biggers. These artists painted some of the greatest murals in the world. A recent article in the Houston Chronicle puts a value on one of John Biggers’ murals at over $1 million.

Ms. Webb quotes Bernie Sanders as he praises Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., and Pope Francis. In a speech that, according to Ms. Webb, Sen. Sanders delivered at Georgetown University, he stated “Our government belongs to all of us, and not just the 1%.” He also said, according to Ms. Webb, “you cannot have freedom without economic security” and detailed this as “the right to a decent job at decent pay, the right to adequate food, clothing, and time off from work, the right for every business, large and small, to function in an atmosphere free from unfair competition and domination by monopolies. The right of all Americans to have a decent home and decent healthcare.”

Those of sound mind will quickly recognize here a mixture of fantasy and reality. In the USA, under capitalism, the government serves only one function: To protect the interests of the bourgeoisie. In the history of the USA, there has never been a period in which working people have had any economic security. Unemployment in the USA varies, but has always been high. Access to food, clothing, paid leave, freedom from unfair competition and the right to a decent home and decent healthcare has always been nonexistent.

The problem here is not to achieve a kinder, gentler capitalism. The problem is to chart a reasonable, feasible path of struggle to the goal of socialism. Reforming capitalism can never result in the goals that Ms. Webb and her idol, Bernie Sanders set. Exploitation, repression, wars, racism, sexism, unemployment and other forms of hatred and abuse are inherent in any capitalist society.

Ms. Webb attempts to reduce socialism to co-ops, privately owned companies, individually owned businesses and sets tactics to achieve these goals to include worker decision-making, expanding town halls, implementing proportional representation, taking money out of political campaigns and making voting easy.

Such simplification is merely obfuscation of the main strategic goal of any Communist Party which is to bring about socialism.

Ms. Webb, in her article, returns to a maniacal rant against the Soviet Union. Interestingly, all of her criticisms of socialism and the Soviet Union are based on US propaganda. Her criticisms could have been written by Joseph McCarthy or J Edgar Hoover. She even goes so far as to say that the Soviet Union was not “socialist.” This may be an historical first.

She throws out red flags, Che and Lenin with the bathwater. She does not condemn Democratic Party president Harry Truman for the atom bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and betraying the US ally, the Soviet Union, after their great contribution to the defeat of Nazi Germany. After FDR’s death, Truman changed the course of US foreign policy which resulted in a very expensive Cold War and nuclear arms race which drained the resources of the working class and did irreparable damage to the planet. She did not condemn Democratic Party governor George Wallace for his virulent racism. She did not condemn the nasty, degenerate, vicious Dixiecrats.

You get the picture. Ms. Webb’s article is filled with filthy, destructive anti-communism which has always been a knife in the heart of the working class.

Let’s look at how Ms. Webb’s article measures up to Lenin’s 21 conditions (previously posted on this blog).

Lenin maintained that the political work of the party should have a “really communist character” and should be devoted to the cause of the proletariat. He stated “in the columns of the press, at public meetings, in the trades unions, and the cooperatives-wherever the members of the Communist International can gain admittance-it is necessary to brand not only the bourgeoisie but also its helpers, the reformists of every shade, systematically and pitilessly.” Ms. Webb obviously violates this condition. She seems to want to do away with the CPUSA and instead support a progressive candidate of the Democratic Party. Bernie Sanders apparently wants to reform capitalism to make it more comfortable for some sectors of the population in the USA. This is not a bad thing, but it is hardly the only thing that needs to be done. No one knows whether Sen. Sanders has any chance of attaining state power, and if he does, whether he will use that power in the interest of the working class. He is certainly not a communist or socialist.

Lenin goes on “Every organization that wishes to affiliate to the Communist International must regularly and methodically remove reformists and centrists from every responsible post in the labor movement (party organizations, editorial boards, trades unions, parliamentary factions, cooperatives, local government) and replace them with tested communists, without worrying unduly about the fact that, particularly at first, ordinary workers from the masses will be replacing ‘experienced’ opportunists.”

Ms. Webb advocates elevating a reformist, centrist opportunist, Bernie Sanders, to the highest office of the land.

Lenin discusses the class struggle but Ms. Webb seems to think that the class struggle is irrelevant to working people.

Lenin discusses the role of the Communist Party in working to prevent new imperialist wars. Apparently, Ms. Webb must believe that imperialism is also irrelevant.

Lenin advocates the elimination of petty bourgeois elements within the party. Ms. Webb embraces not only petty bourgeois, but fully bourgeois elements.

Lenin clearly states “all those parties that wish to belong to the Communist International must change their names. Every party that wishes to belong to the Communist International must bear the name Communist Party of this or that country.” He goes on “The Communist international has declared war on the whole bourgeois world and on all yellow social Democratic parties. The difference between the Communist Parties and the old official ‘social Democratic’ or ‘socialist’ parties that have betrayed the banner of the working class must be clear to every simple toiler.” Again, Ms. Webb extols the virtues of the social Democrats while damning socialists and communists.

Lenin wrote “those party members who fundamentally reject the conditions and theses laid down by the Communist International are to be expelled from the party. Ms. Webb and her partners in crime, Mr. Webb, Ms. Mora and Mr. Bachtell have worked diligently to expel any members of the party who have expressed opposition to collaboration with the social Democrats.

Sam Webb

On January 29, 2016, Sam Webb, former chairman of the CPUSA, and his hand-picked puppet, John Bachtell, the current chairman of the CPUSA, launched two articles simultaneously. These articles have been reproduced on this blog in their entirety in an effort to promote public discussion. Webb’s article is entitled “Bernie or Bust”. As background information, it is important to know that Mr. Webb has advocated publicly abandoning the use of the words “communist” or “Leninist.”

The thrust of his article is to maintain that the only viable strategy of people on the left is to fight the ultra right. His concept of the ultra right equates to members of the Republican Party. He maintains that if Sen. Bernie Sanders does not prevail in his effort to be the Democratic Party nominee for president, people on the left, particularly communists, should fall in lockstep with Hillary Clinton or anyone else that the DNC chooses to anoint. Presumably, if the DNC could resurrect George Wallace and nominate him for president, by Webb’s reckoning, communists should throw all their support behind him.

Webb argues that Hillary Clinton is a far superior candidate than any of the Republican contenders. He allows that Clinton’s foreign policy would most likely be “more aggressive and military-inclined then Obama’s.”

Mr. Webb’s convoluted, contradictory thinking is exemplified in this paragraph: “In sharp contrast to her Republican adversaries, Hillary has a democratic sensibility and the commitment, even if hemmed in by her centrist politics and class leanings. She may not want to break up banks too big to fail, or rein in US military presence and activity worldwide, or embrace single-payer health care (arguably for good reasons), but she will fight for the full range of democratic rights-collective bargaining rights, wage rights, job rights, women’s rights, civil rights, gay rights, voting rights, immigrant rights, and, not least, health rights-as well as defend the integrity of democratic structures, governance, and traditions.

Que contrar, Mr. Webb. It is well known that the Clintons have fought the unions, failed to support the employee free choice act, and as you have cited, opposed single-payer health care. However, even if a hypothetical President Clinton II took office, if she led the USA in further and more intense military provocation of Russia, and China, all humans on the planet could be transformed into cockroach food. As Pete Seeger sang “we can all be cremated equally.” After mass cremation, all of the above reforms become moot issues.

Mr. Webb does not seem to recall that former Secretary of State Clinton committed international war crimes when she presided over the destruction of a sovereign state, Libya, and the barbarous assassination of its leader, Moammar Qaddafi. He doesn’t seem to recall that Hillary Clinton’s husband, former Pres. Bill Clinton (who would return to the White House if his wife is elected president) presided over the destruction of the sovereign state of Yugoslavia and the persecution of its leaders. He does not recognize that this set the stage for George W. Bush to preside over the destruction of the sovereign nation of Iraq and the barbarous assassination of its leader, Saddam Hussein.

He only recognizes the extreme right elements within the Republican Party. He turns blind eyes and ears to the extreme right elements within the Democratic Party.

Again, Mr. Webb, like Ms. Webb, violates Lenin’s conditions by denigrating the Communist Party and touting Social Democrats and reformists while working tirelessly to liquidate the CPUSA. One of the tactics Mr. Webb has employed was to elevate his favorite henchman, John Bachtell to the position of chairman of the CPUSA.

John Bachtell

It is no coincidence that Mr. Bachtell posted his article “Taking a sober look at the 2016 election” on the CPUSA website on the same day that Mr. Webb posted his article on his own personal blog. Both articles make reference to “Bernie or Bust.”

Mr. Bachtell apes the Webb line of “defeat the extreme right” which translates into support for the Democratic Party candidates, no matter how reactionary they may be. Much of the article is extremely poorly written with grammatical errors that would make anyone blush. His sentences don’t have any logical cohesion. They are presented in a staccato fashion which is highly confusing and raises party obfuscation to a new level.

Bachtell writes “We have to continue to emphasize the issues, promoting the best of both Sanders and Clinton, especially the most advanced positions. For example, there is growing discussion among the candidates about a financial transaction tax on Wall Street.” Bachtell does not seem to think that the class struggle is an issue worth discussing. Imperialism, socialism, and/or Leninism are not on the table for discussion either. However, the class struggle, and imperialism/fascism are the evils which plague the working class. Marxism Leninism and socialism are the tools which historically have been most effective in fighting the evils mentioned above.

Bachtell fecklessly quotes the New York Times and other sources of the bourgeois media and continues to confuse these voices of the bourgeoisie with the voices of the working people.

Bachtell talks about building a grand coalition to defeat the ultra right. Unfortunately, his predecessor, Sam Webb, has been very successful in dismantling and almost liquidating the party. It would be interesting to know what the party has done over the last 10 years to build any coalitions. The only coalitions that the party seems capable of building is a convergence of various sources of hot air. They also have been successful in infusing reality with a heavy dose of fantasy about their own importance.

Again, Bachtell follows in Webb’s footsteps and violates Lenin’s conditions in all regards.

On this eve of the Iowa primary and caucuses, is there any hope that the working class will inch towards the achievement of state power in the coming election cycle in the USA? Lenin said bourgeois elections do not solve anything. The great CPUSA chairperson, Gus Hall, urged communists that choose to engage in electoral struggle to “Aim to win.” When he said that, the CPUSA fielded candidates for various electoral offices around the country with little success. It is likely that he would be horrified at the state of the CPUSA today. Communists and socialists have been reduced to the position of deluding themselves into thinking that if a Democrat wins office, it is a victory for the working class. On the contrary, some might argue that support of bourgeois candidates is “Aiming to lose.”

The choices we must make are disgusting at best. It is like being forced to make a decision whether to drink poison and die or drink castor oil and get sick. The reality is that it is better to get sick and recover rather than to die and be gone forever.

Mr. Bachtell and Mr. Webb seem to think that there is no danger of fascism in the USA. Some might argue that it is already here. Much of Pres. Obama’s foreign policy might be characterized as fascist. His failure to support working people on many levels is not antithetical to fascism. The same can be said of both Sen. Sanders’ and former Secretary of State Clinton’s platforms. Sen. Sanders is clearly more progressive on more issues than former Secretary of State Clinton.

Will working people decide to drink castor oil or drain the poison? We will know more tomorrow. For sure, the class struggle will be very intense in the coming years.



(A response to Sue Webb opinion in People’s World on January 4, 2016)

Dear Editor:

In Sue Webb’s opinion piece which appeared in the January 4, 2016 edition she implies that all that is needed in the USA is for us to change the word “capitalism” to “socialism” and everything will fall into place. Of course, this is pure fantasy, the words of a person who is satisfied with the capitalist system of greed and corporate control, what we used to refer to as the “dictatorship of the bourgeoisie”. Ms. Webb is, indeed, bourgeois and her oversimplifications show that.

Her slanders of the USSR and socialism are particularly disturbing. She writes “[socialism] – has been tainted by much of what happened in the Soviet Union and some other countries. But there’s nothing in socialism that equates to dictatorship, political repression, bureaucracy, over-centralization and commandism, and so on. Those features of Soviet society arose out of particular circumstances and personalities. But they were not “socialist.”

Ms. Webb never objected the to the USSR when, in an act of great proletarian internationalism, the Soviet Union and the socialist community of nations led an international movement to save the life of Angela Y. Davis. Now that there is no more USSR thanks to the counter-revolutionary activities of Mikhail Gorbachev and those around him that promoted the concept of socialist “markets” and private enterprise, Ms. Webb all of a sudden finds fault with the socialism of the 20th Century, calling it dictatorial, politically repressive, bureaucratic, and over-centralized, with a command style structure. And what dare I ask, was the USSR when they supported the CPUSA and its fight against racism and its political anti-monopoly program? So soon she forgets! Ms. Webb never objected when the Soviet Union supported the Cuban economy and the development of Cuba. She never objected when the USSR supported the national liberation movements in Angola, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and the Congo. All during the existence of the Soviet Union, the world witnessed the greatest fighter for world peace and socialism. Real socialism. To deny that is the worst kind of right opportunism.

As her alternative to scientifically planned economic socialism, Ms. Webb describes how we in the USA have many publicly owned electric utilities. That’s nice. We also have private utilities Sempra Energy, Pacific Gas, and Electric (PG&E), and Edison International for example, that endanger our environment and public health, cause great disasters like the natural gas explosion in San Bruno, California, the natural gas leak in the Porter Ranch neighborhood of Los Angeles, and the financial manipulation of energy prices by companies like Enron. What is the plan of the social-democrats to deal with these privately owned conglomerates in a socialist economy?

Ms. Webb says that Bernie Sanders is a democratic socialist because he rejects the idea of a planned economy. Great! So we should continue living with the chaos we live in now, where material goods are produced not for the benefit of the people, but to continue the system of private profits and exploitation at any cost? She speaks like a typical believer in American exceptionalism. As long as we have markets for goods everything will be OK. She even says it would be OK to operate private businesses that continue to exploit workers, a kind of touchy, feeley, nice capitalism!

Gus Hall, the great American Communist leader, said many times that there is no “socialist model but that there are general concepts and economic laws of socialism that cannot be ignored. When they are cast aside as Sue Webb suggests we should, the result is counter-revolution and an increase in anti-worker activity. As long as there is a bourgeois class and that class holds the levers of power, it makes no difference who is President of the United States. We have two Americas. A capitalist America, and a working class America. The class war intensifies more every day. We will never have socialism unless and until the workers themselves take power and own the means of production and write their own ticket. They don’t need a Democratic Party messiah to do that. They need a real trade union federation like the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), another contribution to humanity from the Soviet Union and other socialist countries.

So what is socialism? In any country, in any language, socialism is the intermediary step toward a communist society. Socialism is defined as follows: *“The social order which, through revolutionary action by the working class and its allies, replaces capitalism. It is “the first phase of Communist society, as it is when it has just emerged after prolonged birth pangs from capitalist society” (Marx). It is the social order in which the exploitation of man by man has ended because the toiling masses own the means of production. In contrast with the higher phase of Communist society, where “each gives according to his need,” in Socialist society “each gives according to his ability, and receives according to the amount of work performed”.

Contrast this with Democratic Socialism, *which is the general term for reformist and opportunist parties in their “theory” and practice in the Labor Movement [in sharp contrast with class conscious, anti-imperialist trade unionism of the WFTU]. Social-Democracy’s history is marked by timidity, legalism, “respectability,” capitulation to the influence of the capitalists, and consistent betrayal, of the working class.

Time to ask yourselves, which side are you on?

*Marxist Glossary, L. Harry Gould, Sydney. Australia 1948

Joe Hancock

PCUSA, Los Angeles

Taking a sober look at the 2016 election|
| January 30, 2016 | 10:37 pm | About the CPUSA, political struggle | No comments


Remarks to National Board, Jan. 20, 2016

(Updated to reflect new developments)

The 2016 elections are exciting, fast changing, complex and volatile. We need constant updating and a sober estimate of developments and trends. This includes an accurate assessment of the class and social balance of forces, the motion of the electorate overall and the dynamics within both the Democratic and Republican Parties.

I want to raise a few cautions and challenges.

Strategic policy
First, we can’t ever lose sight of the strategic policy guiding our work: defeat the extreme right and GOP, its oligarchic backers, defend the presidency and break the GOP grip on Congress, statehouses and governorships.

In addition we must work at ensuring attempts to appointment extremist, pro-segregationist justices to the U.S. Supreme Court are blocked.

Whatever the outcome in the Democratic primaries we will contribute to building unity of a broad left-center, multi-class, multi-racial, male-female, multi-generational alliance of forces for the general election.

Building such a multi-class alliance that includes the Democratic Party establishment or corporate wing will be a greater challenge if Sanders is nominated, but not impossible.

We have to continue to convey our anti-extreme right strategy to the broader movement, especially the first time and young voters, so that no matter the nominee, all will join in the general election mobilization.

Without question there are serious problems and weaknesses with the Clinton campaign. Clinton carries a lot of historic baggage including her ties to Wall Street, hawkishness on foreign policy, etc. It is so obviously unseemly and tone deaf to accept such large “speaking” fees from Wall Street. But we know this already.

In addition, there are the new low-level red-baiting attacks coming from Democratic National Committee and Clinton surrogates.

But this doesn’t reflect everything. On all the major democratic issues and demands, i.e. collective bargaining rights, racial and gender equity, climate change, immigration reform, etc., Clinton is on the right side.

On the other hand, among some of Sanders’s supporters there is a “Bernie or Bust” mentality. They have declared they will sit out the elections if Clinton is the nominee. This is not the dominant trend but it’s a problem among those who see the Sanders campaign as a way to bash the Democratic Party.

Sanders doesn’t share this view and has handled the efforts to turn him against Hillary very well. Sanders also appreciates the right danger and will be part of the anti-right coalition even if he loses, as will President Obama. This is important because there are pressures on us to abandon our balanced strategic approach.

Strengthening the progressive forces
In addition, we should be part of ensuring the broad people’s coalition led by labor and its allies, has a decisive impact on the depth of understanding of what’s at stake, shaping the key issues and organizing the grassroots mobilization.

This will have a decisive impact on the election outcome, one that puts this movement in a strengthened position to fight in the post election period under more favorable circumstances.

This includes building the size and influence of the left and progressive forces within the coalition. The Sanders campaign can play a key role in strengthening the influence of the left.

Emphasizing the issues
We have to continue to emphasize the issues, promoting the best of both Sanders and Clinton, especially the most advanced positions. For example, there is growing discussion among the candidates about a financial transaction tax on Wall Street.

We will continue to raise differences with and criticisms of both candidates.

Anyone who viewed the debates sees radically different directions for the country. There are big differences between the Clinton and Sanders campaigns: Clinton’s program is within the traditional bounds of the Democratic Party. Sanders’s program is transformational and radical.

Yet, to the extent the election is fought out on the economic and social issues advanced by Sanders, Clinton, O’Malley and President Obama, the outcome will be more favorable.

We should avoid getting carried away with momentary developments. We shouldn’t see trends based solely on what’s happening in Iowa and New Hampshire and extrapolate.

Once the race moves on to South Carolina, Nevada and beyond the dynamics could change because the demographics are different. On the other hand, if Clinton loses both IA and NH and Sanders gains new momentum, the race could take a new turn.

Many unforeseen events can intrude fundamentally altering the dynamics, i.e. a terrorist attack, economic downturn or the entrance of a new candidate into the race (e.g. Michael Bloomberg).

We should beware of polls. They are being cherry picked by each campaign and their supporters.

Certainly Bernie Sanders is surging. There is a growing and energetic movement backing this 74-year-old rumpled self-described democratic socialist. This is an extraordinary moment.

The Clinton campaign foresees a national campaign lasting into April.

Can Sanders beat Trump by larger margin? Maybe, but he hasn’t been subject to same vilification as Clinton for last 30 years and the subject of an all out assault by the GOP and right-wing media.

There are some indications the GOP would prefer to face Sanders in the general election. In Iowa, Karl Rove’s PAC American Crossroads has played up Clinton’s Wall Street ties with the hope of weakening her. Another right-wing PAC is highlighting Sanders’s tax the rich proposals.

This election is different
This election is different than 2012 and earlier in some key ways. One factor is the degree of fervor against party establishment candidates. So far, at least 50 percent of GOP support has been going to non-establishment candidates (Trump, Cruz and Carson). By this time in previous elections, one of the establishment candidates had emerged as a poll leader.

According to the NY Times, the mindset of Republican electorate is angrier and more disenchanted than previous elections. There are more deeply held anti-government sentiments.

Among GOP leaning voters, the anger (mainly among whites) is caused by loss of jobs, steep decline in wages and standard of living, fueled by racism and cultural changes: shifting demographics, same sex marriage, changing religious practices, etc.

Voters are being misled by right-wing demagogy; 40 years of unrelenting hate ideology, particularly racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia.

Another factor is the extreme wealth concentration and the re-emergence of oligarchy. This factor, which is now accelerating, was not as pronounced prior to 2008. It is a huge factor fueling Sanders campaign and shaping the debate overall.

GOP dynamics
There are deep divisions along all the political fault lines in the GOP. Not only are there divisions between the so-called establishment and the Tea Party and insurgent grassroots. There are also divisions among establishment forces.

Some are predicting a Trump victory already in the GOP primaries. Once past Iowa and NH the primary terrain is more favorable to establishment candidates, not the insurgents according to Nate Silver. It will likely boil down to a 3-person race: Trump, Cruz and Rubio.

But again it’s unpredictable.

There is a growing concern regarding the fascist-like stench emanating from elements around the Trump campaign. These fascist like groups are attracted to the Trump campaign in response to his tough talk, anti-Mexican and anti-Muslim tirades.

However, the Trump campaign is not a fascist movement nor is the country near fascism. But if significant sections of the oligarchy decide to back Trump, combined with an array of extremist and fascist like forces, the danger will grow.

And the danger has already grown with a right-wing lock on half the state legislatures, democratic government being eliminated (as in Michigan with the imposition of emergency managers), voter suppression laws being passed, public sector unions being dissolved and right to work laws passed.

A GOP establishment candidate may yet win. If an insurgent wins it would spell the biggest defeat for the GOP establishment since Goldwater. They are getting very nervous but are not yet united around one candidate. Some are preparing for a brokered convention or the possibility Trump or Cruz will win.

I think the announcement by House Speaker Paul Ryan that congressional Republicans would write the GOP convention platform and thereby prevent it from falling in the hands of Trump and the Tea Party is one indication. Ryan is even being rumored as a compromise candidate in the event of a brokered convention.

Trump is highly unpopular among Democrats and independents. This could create possibility for a Goldwater type defeat at the polls and political realignment in the GOP.

The possibility of a general election race between Trump and Sanders is what motivated the presidential trial balloon by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The possible entrance of Bloomberg would greatly complicate the race and could disadvantage the Democrats. The billionaire Bloomberg, who was elected three times in a majority Democratic city, is a pro-choice moderate Republican, who advocates bi-partisan action against global warming, for gun control and immigration reform. He would draw moderate Republican voters and could potentially draw moderate Democratic leaning voters, splitting the party and isolating Sanders.

I think it would fundamentally alter the dynamics of the race.

Sanders has surprised many with his strong showing and surge, not least the Clinton campaign. Sanders raised $33 million to Clinton’s $37 in final quarter of 2015. He broke Obama’s record for most individual contributions at this point in the campaign: 2.5 million.

The Sanders campaign has expanded the political imagination of the country. He is proposing radical solutions to big problems. He is channeling the anger against wealth inequality into a positive direction against Wall Street (an important counterweight to Trump). He has opened the door for a discussion of socialism.

His campaign is a grassroots movement being powered by young voters. He is inspiring first time voters, energizing the base and enlarging the electorate

In this sense, the bigger the vote for Sanders the better. It will help in the general election and post election struggles. A bigger campaign can have a positive impact on the alignment of forces within the anti-ultra right coalition.

Sanders is also having an important impact on Clinton, moving her to adopt more progressive positions.

Problems of unity
At this moment the constituencies that make up the so-called the “Obama Coalition” are fractured between Clinton and Sanders. Clinton has support of more unions (the upcoming AFL-CIO executive council meeting will be decisive), African American and Latino voters (which is holding up), and older voters. 60% support among women, including a majority of older women.

There is a sharp divide along age lines. Those 45 years old and young are supporting Sanders by a wide margin, 2 to 1, including among young women. Something new is happening among the millennial and young voters.

So while appealing to the moderate and pro-corporate wing of the Democratic Party is a huge challenge for Sanders, appealing to younger voters is a huge challenge for Clinton.

Sexism directed at Clinton not only coming from Trump and GOP candidates. We have to expose the influences of sexism, double standards, including in some attacks from the left.

There’s a gender gap in the campaign. Clinton gets 60% of the women’s vote, but loses among young women 2 to 1.

Men support Sanders by a margin of 58 percent to 35 percent, with young men supporting him 5 to 1. A majority of men 45 years and older support Hillary.

But the intensity of the unfavorability, and the influences of sexism, toward Clinton are much higher among men.

There are some, including on the left, who are dismissive of the importance of electing the first woman president. This prospect should be embraced, as was the prospect of electing the first African American president. Clinton’s candidacy is an inspiration for millions of women, but also men. It is a widely held dream and would be an advance for women’s equality, democracy, and blow to sexism.

Clinton’s been in the public spotlight, under attack for 30 years by the right, particularly vicious sexist attacks and has been subject to double standards.

Sexism is an ideological poison that must be combated wherever it appears.

Sanders has been evolving in his approach to issues of racial justice. But the overwhelming support for Clinton among African American voters is not just a matter of Sanders not being widely known in the African American community.

We have often pointed out African American voters are the most sophisticated bloc of the electorate. There are a myriad of reasons and considerations behind the support for Clinton.

Sanders still often appears tone deaf on issues of racial justice, including around the recent debate on support for reparations. One could debate whether passage of reparations legislation is possible, but to be dismissive made him sound insensitive and blind to the interrelationship between issues of class and race.

Clinton has more deftly handled the relationship of class and racial justice issues, for example on the Flint water crisis and in her meeting with #BlackLivesMatters activists.

Both candidates embrace President Obama and vow to continue his policies for the most part.

We shouldn’t dismiss concerns over Sanders’s electability and just attribute them to the Clinton campaign. These concerns are coming from people who love Bernie and what he stands for but don’t think he can assemble the coalition needed to win.

Would the so-called establishment and center forces in the Democratic Party sit on their hands if Sanders were nominated, thereby isolating him?

There are also questions of electability surrounding Clinton. There is concern she has too many negatives and ties to Wall Street to be an effective candidate.

What will it take to emerge from the primaries with a united coalition and a candidate capable of winning? It means re-assembling the constituent parts of the “Obama coalition” which includes the entire labor movement, communities of color, women, youth and other democratic movements, i.e. environmental, immigrant, LGTBQ, etc.

But it also includes section of business at odds with the extreme right and the reactionary sections of monopoly capital. A multi-class, multi-racial, male-female, young-old alliance, broad center-left alliance in sync with a wide range of democratic movements is needed.

Nor should we dismiss concerns about the ability of Sanders to pass his program as articulated. This is not all Clinton propaganda. It will take ousting the GOP majority and electing far more progressive elected officials.

Again, we need a sober assessment of the actual balance of class, social and political forces. Winning the election is one thing, but governing is still another.

At this moment, Sanders or Clinton will need the cooperation of a section of Wall Street to govern effectively. It is important to identify the most reactionary section to attack and isolate it: Koch brothers, et al billionaires, fossil fuel industry and military industrial complex.

After the election, the overall class struggle will sharpen, given the accelerating concentration of wealth and this will also come to bear on a new administration.

If the movement is bigger, if there is indeed a political revolution, then the balance will change and it will be possible for more radical reforms to pass.

There have been some dramatic shifts in public opinion and the emergence of majority sentiments around higher minimum wage, unions, same-sex marriage, action against the climate crisis, immigration reform, etc. But majority sentiments and organized action in support of those sentiments is another.

The GOP will most likely retain House because of redistricting. It’s possible for Democrats to win the Senate. If Clinton or Sanders is elected, it will mean more obstruction from the GOP House.

But the obstruction will come from other centers of power too: from oligarchy, reactionary sections of Wall Street, right wing social movements, think tanks and mass media, talk radio, etc.

Last week NPR carried an interview with Jane Mayer, author of “Dark Money”, the story of the Koch brothers. While we were at the 2008 Obama inauguration, Mitch McConnell was organizing a meeting of the GOP to obstruct. What we didn’t know was that the Koch brothers were also organizing a meeting of billionaires in CA to plan obstruction.

A resounding victory in 2016 will create a more favorable terrain of struggle going forward and potentially open the doors to a new era of more advanced struggles. This is a part of the huge challenge for both Sanders and Clinton and all democratic forces going forward.

Photo: Creative Commons 3.0

Bernie or Bust?

Bernie or Bust?

There it was on my Facebook feed. An image of a young woman and beneath it the slogan, “Bernie or Bust.” Catchy enough, I thought. But what does it mean? Two very different interpretations came to mind.

One is that Sanders’ supporters are going all out, taking his campaign as far as it can go (and it’s gone further than many political observers thought only a few months ago), but no matter who wins the Democratic Party nomination this summer, supporting the nominee in the fall.

The other is that it’s full speed ahead now, but in the event that Bernie doesn’t win the nomination and Hillary does, his supporters will sit out the general election.

If the first interpretation is the case, so much the better; it’s a win-win. If it’s the other, it’s wrongheaded. Nothing good will come from it. In fact, a lot of bad could result. Let me explain:

Hillary isn’t Bernie; no question about that. His positions go beyond the conventional boundaries of the Democratic Party; hers don’t. His campaign feels transformational; hers doesn’t. He is energizing new constituencies and stimulating new thinking; she isn’t. He’s on the outs with the party’s hierarchy; she’s its favorite. He hopes to build a popular movement that will endure after the curtain falls on this election cycle. She has no such aspiration. And he’s a democratic socialist to boot. Not her cup of tea.

But, by the same token, Hillary isn’t Trump, Cruz, or Rubio either – far from it. Nor is she in the same ballpark as Margaret Thatcher or Carly Fiorina — or Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann.

To say that she is a warhawk, a late arrival to the issue of income inequality, and linked to Wall Street, tells us something about her, something important, but it doesn’t tell us everything. Her politics, much like President Obama’s, are more complex and multidimensional than her unrelenting critics on the left and right allow.

In sharp contrast to her Republican adversaries, Hillary has a democratic sensibility and commitment, even if hemmed in by her centrist politics and class leanings. She may not want to break up banks too big to fail, or rein in U.S. military presence and activity worldwide, or embrace single-payer health care (arguably for good reasons), but she will fight for the full range of democratic rights – collective bargaining rights, wage rights, job rights, women’s rights, civil rights, gay rights, voting rights, immigrant rights, and, not least, health rights – as well as defend the integrity of democratic structures, governance, and traditions.

If elected president she will build on the achievements of Obama’s presidency. In other words, her White House will press for economic, social, and political reforms on a range of issues, including existentially necessary action on climate change. This will be especially so if the progressive and popular base of the coalition that elects her, assuming for the moment that she is the nominee, remains engaged in the post-election period. That wasn’t the case in the Obama years, at least on the scale necessary to successfully combat Republican obstructionism.

Even Hillary’s foreign policy, while likely more aggressive and military-inclined than Obama’s, also has a place for diplomacy, global cooperation, and realism – a far cry from any of the trigger-happy Republican candidates who believe there are no limits to the projection of U.S. power in a complex, fractured, and violent world.

Finally, the election of Hillary will break perhaps the biggest glass ceiling for women. While we can’t really know how great its symbolic significance will be, it is safe to say that it will be large and lasting on men as well as girls and women. Moreover, as president, Hillary will certainly do what she has long done – shine a light on women’s concerns, ranging from wage and job discrimination, to health care, abortion, and birth control rights, to rape and domestic violence, to child care and parental leave. But she will do it on the largest public stage and with a far bigger voice.

The GOP candidates, on the other hand, have no such sensibilities and commitments. Neither does the Republican Party as a whole. They have demonstrated by words and deeds that they think too much democracy, too much equality, and too many democratic rights plague the country. And if it were not for Obama in the White House for the past eight years, their “scorched earth” assault on this plague of excessive democracy and equality would have been much further along.

And herein lies the danger that supporters of both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton must consider: If the Republicans win the presidency, that firewall against far-right extremism that the Obama administration represented will disappear and the barbarians will be no longer at the gate, but likely in charge of the whole castle.

Their grip on the Supreme Court is already secure and the odds are good that if they win the presidency, the presidential coattails will be long enough to maintain their congressional majority.

This doesn’t mean that fascism is around the corner. (More about that in another article). But it will mean that a nasty and brutish gang will use its control of the three main branches of government to roll back the democratic rights revolution of the last 60 years and knee cap democratic governance, not to mention ramp up militarism, climate change obstructionism, and the wholesale shrinkage of the public sector.

To make matters worse, this concentration of state power in the hands of the extreme right at the federal level is matched and augmented by its control of thirty state governments, ubiquitous voice in the major media, network of well-funded think tanks, pastors in the pulpits, energetic grassroots constituency, and nearly bottomless war chest – thanks to the Koch brothers and other right wing billionaires.

Which brings me back to the slogan “Bernie or Bust.” If too many interpret it to mean Bernie or no one, least of all Hillary, it becomes an action (or inaction) that could well cede the country to right wing extremists.

By the same token, much the same could be said if Hillary’s supporters – and there have been hints – go on strike in the event that Bernie wins the nomination.

Does anyone really want to repeat the debacle in 1972 when major sections of the Democratic Party sat on their hands rather than support the party’s nominee, the anti-war liberal, George McGovern? We got Nixon and Kissinger then; we will get worse now.

Unity around the eventual winner, not division, not sitting on one’s hands, is, therefore, imperative.

This may not sound sexy. It isn’t a leap down freedom road. It’s more defensive than transformational. The framing of the present situation and tasks in this way isn’t an end point of analysis or struggle. Instead, it’s a necessary way station that can’t be bypassed if we hope to arrive at a future of radical and substantive democracy, equality, sustainability, and peace – a future that is worthy of our humanity.