Category: About the CPUSA
The Unexpected Afterlife of American Communism

The Opinion Pages

The Unexpected Afterlife of American Communism


Claudia Jones arriving for a court date in 1951. Credit George Alexanderson/The New York Times

The Communist, in the American imagination, has always been the ultimate outside agitator.

No matter how homegrown a resistance movement was, or how local the organizers were, the first response from those facing protest has always been to blame an outsider. This was as true for town hall protests during the February 2017 congressional recess as it was for anti-lynching struggles more than 80 years ago during the Great Depression.

For much of the past century in this country, this undesirable alien — seen as being from someplace foreign and in need of deportation back there — stood accused of invading to stir up trouble where there was none, where previously the locals had been docile and willing to accept whatever everyday inequality was their lot. Though many Communists were indeed immigrants, who would be targeted for harassment and deportation for as long as the party existed, many, too, were homegrown, born and raised in the same cities and towns as their persecutors.

The Communist Party U.S.A., founded in 1919, was closely tied to what emerged as the Soviet Union after the 1917 October Revolution, but the American party also drew on decades of local radical organizing. Many of its members came out of the Socialist Party, the labor movement and even anarchist activism, but the party also found a base among African-Americans when Communists proved willing to take on their struggles for self-determination.

In short, American Communism was a movement that grew out of what the historian Robin D. G. Kelley, the author of “Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression,” calls “the most despised and dispossessed elements of American society.” It was the black workers drawn to the party, Professor Kelley argues, who shaped its political choices as much as the varying dictates that came from the Communist International, Moscow’s directorate for foreign parties.

During the Depression, the party took on fights not just for better wages and working conditions but also against evictions by landlords and abuses of the criminal punishment system. In the Deep South, the battle for freedom for the Scottsboro Boys, nine black teenagers falsely accused of rape in 1931, was led by the International Labor Defense, a legal arm of the Communist Party U.S.A.

That stand still inspires activists today. The Scottsboro case was what drew the organizer and educator Mariame Kaba, who runs the blog Prison Culture, to learn more about the Communist Party U.S.A.

“They were helping nine young black men,” she said, “and preventing their state-sanctioned murder for a crime they didn’t commit.”

In the 1930s, the party taught its members to discuss their problems using the language of exploitation. This language meant that people “understood that racism and what they called male chauvinism wasn’t simply people acting badly or being psychologically controlled or being ignorant,” Professor Kelley said. “It was about the benefits that they derived from exploitative relationships.”

That framework, which has been revisited today in platform documents like “A Vision for Black Lives,” argues that racism, at root, is not about hate between groups, but about the way power is held in society. And class, according to this analysis, is created by relationships of exploitation.

These arguments were championed by organizers like Claudia Jones, a black leader within the Communist Party U.S.A. and a journalist for its newspaper, The Daily Worker. According to Charlene Carruthers, the national director of Black Youth Project 100, Ms. Jones expounded the idea now known as intersectionality decades before that term became so ubiquitous that Hillary Clinton used it in a tweet on the campaign trail. For Ms. Jones, understanding the lives of black women and the economic and social position they occupied would create a better understanding of the system of capitalism as a whole. It followed, Ms. Carruthers explains, that black women’s work was central in the struggle to replace the system.

Within organized labor, particularly the Congress of Industrial Organizations in the 1940s, the Communist-led unions were consistently the leaders on racial and gender equality. Sometimes this clashed with the wishes of white male members, who occasionally went on strike against the inclusion of black members. With the eventual purge of such so-called red unions from the federation, the cause of antiracism slipped to the sidelines. Only in the past decade or so has it returned as a priority for some unions.

Yet for all the work that went into killing the idea that another system was possible, the specter of Communism haunts us still. The Communist Party U.S.A. had its greatest successes as the country reeled from the Depression. Today, as we are still picking our way out of the rubble left by the crash of 2008, left-wing ideas have gained new purchase. It was the material conditions of people’s lives, Ms. Kaba points out, that made them willing to listen to something radically different during the 1930s and ’40s. It was that economic reality that drove millions of people to pay attention to both the nationalist bombast of Mr. Trump and the democratic socialist message of Bernie Sanders.

The year 2016 saw a revolt against politics as usual, with the mainstream parties’ failing to offer much in the way of solutions to struggling people across the United States. In the wake of the election, Ms. Carruthers said, organizations like Black Youth Project 100 have to broaden the scope of their work while cleaving to their political vision. Courting the supposed white mainstream while ignoring the material needs of black people, immigrants, transgender people and other marginalized communities will not placate Trumpian efforts to foment fear of the un-American outsider.

The power of the radical agitator — homegrown as well as outsider — has always been the ability to expose the gap between the narrative of American greatness and the realities of people’s lives. What American Communists, at their best, pioneered was to show how effectively grass-roots movements can challenge the racism, state violence and economic exploitation that people face in their daily lives, and connect those fights to a broader vision of a just world.

America’s obsession with rooting out communism is making a comeback

California shoots down bill to strike language barring Communist party members from government jobs as Trump’s alleged Russia ties stoke cold war sentiments

Statue of worker and collective farm woman by Vera Mukhina, in Moscow, Russia<br>MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MAY 13, 2017: The statue of a worker and collective farm woman by Vera Mukhina at the main entrance to the VDNKh exhibition complex. Stanislav Krasilnikov/TASS (Photo by Stanislav Krasilnikov\TASS via Getty Images)

Is a new ‘red scare’ gripping the US? Photograph: Stanislav Krasilnikov/TASS

America’s obsession with rooting out communism is making a comeback

California shoots down bill to strike language barring Communist party members from government jobs as Trump’s alleged Russia ties stoke cold war sentiments

It was a scene straight out of the 1950s, but the year was 2017. Travis Allen, a Republican from southern California, took to the floor of the state assembly on 8 May to denounce communism. “To allow subversives and avowed communists to now work for the state of California,” he railed, “is a direct insult to the people of California who pay for that government.”

Allen was speaking out against a move to remove language from the California code that that bars members of the Communist party from holding government jobs in the state.

Anti-communist language remains on the books in several states, and in California, at least, it’s not going anywhere. After facing backlash from Republicans, veterans and the Vietnamese American community, the bill’s sponsor, the Democratic assemblyman Rob Bonta, announced last week that he would not move forward with the bill.

With intrigue about Russia driving the daily news cycle, cold war sentiments are bubbling up again, despite the fact that our erstwhile adversary is decidedly capitalist these days. It’s a marked reversal from just a year ago, when an astonishing number of Americans embraced the candidacy of a self-identified socialist, and a reminder of how deep anti-communist suspicion runs through the American psyche.

Bonta is not the first legislator to fail in an attempt to drag state laws into the 21st century. A similar effort was made in California in 2008, when a bill passed only to be vetoed by the then governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. “I see no compelling reason to change the law that maintains our responsibility to ensure that public resources are not used for purposes of overthrowing the US or state government, or for communist activities,” the governor wrote in his veto statement.

Joe Fitzgibbon, a Democratic state representative in Washington, has attempted three times since 2012 to pass legislation getting rid of his state’s law barring communists from voting or having government jobs, but he has faced considerable opposition from Republicans.

He called the law “a mark of shame for Washington state” in a recent interview with the Guardian, and said he would keep trying.

“I wonder if now that Republicans have a different opinion on Russia, if maybe they’ll be more receptive,” he said. “My hope is that they will change their tune on whether people should be discriminated against for their political beliefs. Maybe they can talk to their Russian friends about that.”

Lest there be any misunderstanding: members of the Communist party are currently allowed to hold government jobs in every American state. Such laws were passed around the country during the so-called red scare of the 20th century, but they have long since been ruled unconstitutional by the supreme court.

Some states have managed to move on. Arizona lawmakers voted in 2003 to update the state’s loyalty oath. Now, instead of swearing they are not members of of the Communist party, elected officials and public employees must vow not to be terrorists. Candidates for elected office in Illinois still receive a loyalty oath when they register to run, but filling it out is optional. Pennsylvania stopped requiring candidates to sign a loyalty oath in 2006, after a Socialist Worker party candidate objected.

While these red scare relics can seem comical, Michael Risher of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California said they could still have serious consequences. “Occasionally someone will dredge them up and use them to try to scare people … to stop them from speaking out,” he said.

In 2006, he recalled, a California legislator asked the state attorney general whether an anti-subversive law could be used to go after Mexican American student activists. At the time, there was considerable rightwing suspicion about the student group MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán) and its supposed goal of reconquista, or returning California and other parts of the south-west to Mexico.

“The danger is not so much that someone will be sentenced to life in prison, but that they will be restrained from doing something that they would otherwise do,” Risher said.

In New York City, a public school principal has been placed under investigation over allegations of recruiting students to join the Progressive Labor party, a communist group. The principal, Jill Bloomberg, is an outspoken critic of racial inequality in the school system, and she has sued the city’s department of education for violating her civil rights.

Either way, she said the investigation had placed a pall over her school, as teachers second-guess their ability to speak freely to their students. “If you’re teaching the Harlem renaissance and the civil rights movement, can you say Paul Robeson was proud to be a member of the Communist party?” she asked. “Or can you only talk about communism if you present it as a negative?”

For Rossana Cambron, a national vice-chair of the Communist Party USA, which has about 5,000 members, the failure of Bonta’s bill was “very disappointing”. Still, she said, such efforts are in no way a priority.

“We’re too busy fighting Trump to be looking into those kind of things.”

Reply to IWPCHI

By James Thompson

We received this comment in response to the article we posted:

“We found the link to this article from your Twitter feed and followed it in the hope that the CPUSA – and/or your French comrades – might have something interesting to say about the French elections. We were not surprised to be disappointed. This is a worthless “analysis” piece taken word-for-word from the bourgeois press; it hides the truth about these candidates, portraying them as if they did not represent any of the contending classes in a capitalist society but were existing in some magical metaphysical plane “above” or “beyond” “mere” class analysis. If we wanted to know what the bourgeoisie thought about the French elections we could just read Le Temps or Paris Match. Have the “Communist Party” Stalinists given up even pretending to be Marxist dialecticians these days?

There are revolutionary socialist workers parties in France, are there not? What are their critiques of Macron, Le Pen and all the other shameless servants of the hideous French bourgeoisie? That would be interesting to read; this is not even good bourgeois press analysis.


Workers of the World, Unite! Return to the Revolutionary Road of Lenin and Trotsky! Long Live the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917!


Independent Workers Party of Chicago”

We appreciate all comments in response to the articles we post, but reserve the duty to respond.

We were not surprised to be disappointed with the splitting tactics of self serving Trots. We understand that that is what Trots do to disrupt any progress of the working class.

First, we are not affiliated in any way with the CPUSA. They expelled us when we questioned their unquestioning allegiance to the Democratic Party.

Second, we will be happy to post any analysis from French Communists when we find it. This article was posted in Telesur, which is a beacon of truth in the struggle to continue to revolutionary government of Venezuela.We posted it because we found it interesting. It merely delineates the positions of the two candidates in the runoff election in France. Maybe we missed something, but we did not notice that there are any Trots in the runoff. We do not endorse any articles we post from other sources, but offer them for educational and informational purposes to the working class in its struggle to attain political power.

Of course, political struggle is anathema to counterrevolutionary Trots who seek to split and divide the working class into an infinitesimal number of splinter organizations. When the working class is divided, the bourgeoisie will continue to prevail.

If you do not have knowledge of your enemies, you cannot fight them effectively and instead must cling to hollow, meaningless slogan tributes to the villainous traitor to the revolutionary process, Trotsky.

History has proven that Trotsky worked as a German agent in the effort to sabotage the Soviet Union. His palatial home in Mexico City proves he was on the bourgeois payroll.

We recognize that the Soviet Union was an outstanding experiment in socialism, but it failed due to the sell out to the bourgeoisie led by Gorbachev. Trotsky’s machinations and those of his pathetic followers contributed to the surrender of the USSR.

We reject the characterization of our website as “Stalinist”, but realize that that is merely Trots at play using any lie they can conjure up to split the working class.

It is not necessary to respond to the Trotskyite gibberish which reveals their lack of knowledge of the class struggle.

When Communism Inspired Americans

New York Times, April 30, 2017
When Communism Inspired Americans
by Vivian Gornick…/when-communism-inspired-americans.html

At a rally in New York City in 1962, the famously liberal journalist Murray Kempton said to an audience full of old Reds: “I have known many Communists in my life. I have not known them as criminals. I knew them once as activists — and we had our quarrels. But while this country has not been kind to you, it has been fortunate in having you. You have been arrested, you have been followed, you have had your phones bugged, you have had your children fired. Throughout this, I can think of numbers of you I have known who have remained gallant and pleasant and unbroken.” He added, “I salute you and I hope for times to be better.”

My mother was in the audience that night and said, when she came home: “America was fortunate to have had the Communists here. They, more than most, prodded the country into becoming the democracy it always said it was.”

My parents were working-class socialists. I grew up in the late 1940s and early ’50s thinking of them and their friends as what they themselves called “progressives.” The sociology of the progressive world was complex. At its center were full-time organizers for the Communist Party, at the periphery left-wing sympathizers, and at various points in between everything from rank-and-file party card holders to respected fellow travelers.

In my childhood, these distinctions did not exist for me. The people who came to our Bronx apartment or were present at the fund-raising parties we attended, the rallies we went to, and the May Day parades we marched in were all simply progressives. At the kitchen table they drank tea, ate black bread and herring, and talked “issues.” I understood nothing of what they said, but I was always excited by the richness of their rhetoric, the intensity of their arguments, the urgency and longing behind that hot river of words that came pouring ceaselessly from them.

They were voyagers on that river, these plumbers, pressers and sewing machine operators; and they took with them on their journey not only their own narrow, impoverished experience but also a set of abstractions with transformative powers. When these people sat down to talk, Politics sat down with them, Ideas sat down with them; above all, History sat down with them. They spoke and thought within a context that lifted them out of the nameless, faceless obscurity into which they had been born, and gave them the conviction that they had rights as well as obligations. They were not simply the disinherited of the earth, they were proletarians with a founding myth of their own (the Russian Revolution) and a civilizing worldview (Marxism).

While it is true that thousands of people joined the Communist Party in those years because they were members of the hardscrabble working class (garment district Jews, West Virginia miners, California fruit pickers), it was even truer that many more thousands in the educated middle class (teachers, scientists, writers) joined because for them, too, the party was possessed of a moral authority that lent shape and substance, through its passion for structure and the eloquence of its rhetoric, to an urgent sense of social injustice.

Most Communists never set foot in party headquarters, laid eyes on a Central Committee member, or were privy to policy-making sessions. But every rank-and-filer knew that party unionists were crucial to the rise of industrial labor; party lawyers defended blacks in the South; party organizers lived, worked, and sometimes died with miners in Appalachia; farm workers in California; steel workers in Pittsburgh. What made it all real were the organizations the party built: the International Workers Order, the National Negro Congress, the Unemployment Councils. Whenever some new world catastrophe announced itself throughout the Depression and World War II, The Daily Worker sold out in minutes.

It is perhaps hard to understand now, but at that time, in this place, the Marxist vision of world solidarity as translated by the Communist Party induced in the most ordinary of men and women a sense of one’s own humanity that ran deep, made life feel large; large and clarified. It was to this clarity of inner being that so many became not only attached, but addicted. No reward of life, no love nor fame nor wealth, could compete with the experience. It was this all-in-allness of world and self that, all too often, made of the Communists true believers who could not face up to the police state corruption at the heart of their faith, even when a 3-year-old could see that it was eating itself alive.

I was 20 years old in April 1956 when Nikita Khrushchev addressed the 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party and revealed to the world the incalculable horror of Stalin’s rule. Night after night the people at my father’s kitchen table raged or wept or sat staring into space. I was beside myself with youthful rage. “Lies!” I screamed at them. “Lies and treachery and murder. And all in the name of socialism! In the name of socialism!” Confused and heartbroken, they pleaded with me to wait and see, this couldn’t be the whole truth, it simply couldn’t be. But it was.

The 20th Congress report brought with it political devastation for the organized left around the world. Within weeks of its publication, 30,000 people in this country quit the party, and within the year it was as it had been in its 1919 beginnings: a small sect on the American political map.

The effective life of the Communist Party in the United States was approximately 40 years in length. Hundreds of thousands of Americans were Communists at one time or another during those 40 years. Many of these people endured social isolation, financial and professional ruin, and even imprisonment. They were two generations of Americans whose lives were formed by political history as were no other American lives save those of the original Revolutionists. History is in them — and they are in history.

Vivian Gornick is the author, most recently, of the memoir “The Odd Woman and the City.”

John Bachtell divides the working class by splitting the CPUSA: Whatever happened to “Unity, the only way!”?

John Case’s view of the CPUSA under John Bachtell’s leadership via the Socialist Economics listserv:

With the best of intentions and sentiments, CP leader Bachtell delivers a typically impotent CP rebuke to fascism. The fascist threat will be rebuked when its driving cause, 40 years of Austerity, is directly addressed and reversed. Not before. Bachtell does not even mention that. Doing that would mean raising, not burying, effacing, minimizing or damning with faint praise, class politics in the midst of reveling in the abundance of “resistance” movements. Hat tips from “Communists” to these movements are no doubt elevating to the tipper. But who in the movements cares? the CP represents no class, none,  Airy speculations about all-peoples fronts and such from those with no base, and no prospects of one, are just that: hot air.

I suspect the faction online advocating that the whole Trump affair, and now the fate of democracy, is mainly about race and not class is loud in party ranks. I guess THEY won’t be contending, like Sanders, “the new center” — Joe Manchin— in the coalfields of West Virginia. Or engaging the gas fields either, with those evil pipeline workers and their building trades unions  begging Trump — not the “multi-class allies” — for jobs at a living wage.

Bachtell offers this, for those who might be tempted to criticize, like Sanders, the new “center”: Senator Joe Manchin, of West Virginia:  “These approaches [that] advocate war against the political center at a moment when center-left unity is absolutely necessary…”
Unity on what? Does the “unity” include  — first — reversing austerity, which, by the way, does NOT require overthrowing capitalism, but does require a determined class struggle against the rights and prerogatives of billionaires? If not, it won’t amount to dogshit in repairing working class disunity. And if that is not repaired, all the “multi-class” coalitions in the world won’t remove the fascists, and the fetid petri dish of austerity in which they thrive and are reborn. If you do not use a class approach — who are YOUR people, YOUR way of life — if ordinary people are not drawn into motion in the millions, you wont ever know what the basis of popular unity really is. For example — you might find that fixing austerity HAS TO COME BEFORE bathroom rights in North Carolina, if you were listening to millions, not the “left”.
Of course this discourse is all a waste of time with the CP and some similar orgs — orgs with no base have no real way of politically verifying their positions, and thus can remain firmly planted in mid-air for lifetimes. It was effectively liquidated in the 50’s by a combination of repression and sectarianism. It revived a half Zombie existence in the sixties at the pleasure of the  CPSU and a quid pro quo with the Kennedy Administration. It’s leaders got out of jail. It succeeded in getting Angela Davis out of jail — its singular post-war actual accomplishment, beyond a repository of militant memories. Soviet cash helped pay for the paper and presidential campaigns of Gus Hall. Which makes the CP going after Trump for foreign interference a bit, well, compromised to say the least.
But I offer it as an example of what not to do as the resistance goes forward.
Stay away from sectarian outfits with “profound world-scale views” but no legs, and giant suitcases of dead weights they will ask you to carry for them on the way to “liberation”.
Joes Sims response to John Case’s view of John Bachtell via the Socialist Economics listserv:

I was surprised and dismayed by John Case’s recent rebuke of John Bachtell’s article and more broadly the Communist Party.  Allow me a brief personal reply.
First it is absolutely untrue that the Communist Party downplays austerity now or in the past. I, for example, essayed an extended critique of this very subject, its influence on GOP and Democratic neoliberal politics and on the Clinton’s in particular. Combating the fascist danger as Case correctly emphasizes was its point of departure. So too with various articles in by many writers including Bachtell.  His most recent, taken to task by John Case, is no different, albeit its consideration of how to conduct this fight in the current dispensation, an issue that’s ignored at our collective peril.

What’s the basis of this fight? Clearly it will not be giving up on the fight for 15, Obamacare, acceptance of national stop-and-frisk, approval of right to work, etc.  In a phrase, we cannot stop saying no to neoliberal austerity.  These demands have had much room for initiative and setting the agenda – even for the most advanced elements of the political center.  This fact is suggestive of the danger of getting stuck in the middle of constricted phrases and formulas. My own view is that we’ve entered an unprecedented period where the defeat of fascism may well require radical radical reforms: or as John Case puts it,  a defeat of austerity, a moment when for a time,  the anti-right and anti-monopoly stages of struggle could combine.

It’s all the more curious then why John Case critiques  challenging the basis for Trump vote. Doing so does not necessarily undermine the anti-austerity motives behind sections of the vote.  An understanding of this vote is not written only in black and white, but also in many shades of grey.  A denial of one leads necessarily to a misunderstanding of the other. Not seeing the greys may obscure all.  Hence my complete disdain for the “identity politics” critique as if people of color, women, lgbtq people do not have the same economic claims and anxiety as working-class whites. In fact we have more. John Case knows that and in fact has written eloquently on it himself, which makes me wonder as to why the tenor, tone and content of his attack, a fusillade that goes beyond the present moment but dates a half a century back into the dark corners of the Cold War.

Speaking now as the son of a steelworker at Youngstown Sheet and Tube and coming of age in the direct shadow of Joe McCarthy and Roy Cohn I have to directly challenge Case’s allegations about the Communist Party, its working class influence and its source.  Coming from a party family in a  small industrial town in the 60s I witnessed the daily work of my mom and dad from a unique vantage point. I saw first hand their daily work on school reform, model cities, welfare rights, police violence, union rights, even questions of war and peace. I heard the phone ring and watched their grassroots defense of our class, work which won them respect and even election to community organization and union positions. And all of this was after having been twice hauled before HUAC. Dad was a grievance man for Local 2163; mom an activist and trustee in AFSCME, both members of the NAACP, CBTU, SANE FREEZE and many other organizations. When dad died the then USWA sent Oliver Montgomery from the Pittsburgh International to speak at his funeral. Montgomery reflected on dad’s work on the consent decree and importantly on the issue of black white unity urging him at a difficult time not to give up on his white union brothers.  Tributes were also brought from other community and religious leaders, including Ron Daniels. The same can be said for my mom, who twice ran for city and countywide office and was an elected leader in her union. Even today when dining out her lunch and dinner are bought by community figures who on occasion happen upon us – an offering of admiration and respect.

Here’s what I came here to say: this respect was not bought with  Moscow gold. Not in Youngstown, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago or any other town were communists worked and struggled. And these  tales are not unique but are the stories of Frank and Bea Lumpkin, George and Denise Edwards, Wally Kauffman, George Meyers, Lorenzo and Anita Torres and hundreds if not thousands of communist trade unionists  who labored in the factories and mines of our country.

So no John I can never agree with your charge that the U.S. working class doesn’t give a damn about the Communist Party.

No, respect cannot be bought. This I know. But I’ve learned something else. Lies come cheap, especially big ones.  And that’s what troubled me more than anything else when reading your critique.  We live in an age of the Big Lie, in a time when facts give way to unbelievably dangerous flights of fantasy. We cannot in any way accommodate them.  The facts I offer instead are small ones, grains  of truth really, anecdotal sure, but taken together they weave an undeniable pattern of struggle, one that challenges your narrative John, then and now. These same truths obtain today as the CP experiences an uptick in membership brought about in response to the Trump election. Just last weekend we phoned some 5000 of them several hundred of whom joined since November 8th.

Winter is here and we must huddle together to avoid the cold. And for that reason I will end by reminding of you of my father’s lesson upon dying learned through the tears of  Oliver Montgomery’s eulogy: no matter how difficult the time or how low the blow I will not give up on you my erstwhile comrade but remaining class brother.  Let’s not give up on each other.

Joe Sims

A message to communists who live outside the United States

by Darrell Rankin

An observer from Canada

A message to communists who live outside the United States
It is a common accusation to call a person a communist these days, especially politicians who want peace with Russia (Trump), who support Obamacare (Obama), (Clinton) or who say they are a socialist (Sanders).
But here’s a message to the communists outside the United States:
1. We have to thank the ruling class for again making socialism and communism the issue of the day.
2. Jealousy will get you nowhere.
(U.S. communists: Don’t read this. Get back to work. You have a lot of confusion to clear up.)

Standing together in protest: Unity will Trump hate
| February 20, 2017 | 8:24 pm | About the CPUSA | No comments

BY:John Bachtell|December 14, 2016

Standing together in protest: Unity will Trump hate 

Below is the text of a report delivered by John Bachtell, national chair of the Communist Party USA, to a meeting of its National Committee on November 19, 2016 in Chicago.

The road to human freedom and preserving life on Earth is a long one, full of twists and unexpected turns. And reverses.

There’s no sugar coating it. The election of Donald Trump as president and a Republican Senate and House was a bitter and sweeping defeat with far-reaching consequences that will ripple for years and even decades to come. It has put our nation and Earth, already in a precarious state, in a far more dangerous place.

Everything has changed as of Nov. 8. With the takeover of the Republican Party by white supremacists, a new kind of right-wing and authoritarian danger has emerged, one that if unchecked threatens basic democracy.

Our multi-racial working class and people and all democratic movements are immediately on the defensive and our nation and Earth, already in a precarious state, will be in a far more dangerous place. Tens of thousands will die as a direct result of the cruel and ruthless Trump and GOP Congressional policies.

The broad democratic movements cannot allow this defeat or the fear of authoritarian rule to lead to paralysis. It is not the end of the road. As the Rev. William Barber III said, “We must remember how our ancestors responded to disappointment without allowing it to deter them on the march toward justice.”

After all, political fortunes can reverse quickly. Upon winning a narrow re-election in 2004, Pres. George W. Bush, in his hubris, launched a campaign to privatize of Social Security. A huge mass movement rose to block it, and the unraveling of his administration, already in retreat, began.

Remembering this now is especially important because Trump’s victory did not represent a mandate for his policies. By voting for Hillary Clinton, the majority rejected hate and attacks on democratic rights. Even though the U.S. is deeply polarized politically, majorities of people support taxing the rich, taking money out of politics, expanding Social Security and Medicare, labor unions, a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, abortion and reproductive rights, criminal justice reform, LGBTQ rights, and urgently addressing the climate crisis. These issues and their moral implications form the basis for broad unity against the Trump policies.

After past election defeats, people were demoralized for a time. Already thousands are taking to the streets, campuses, and online to show their opposition. People are overcoming shock, demoralization, and fear through community, mutual support, and solidarity. It’s an important first step in regaining voice, hope, and determination to forge ahead.

“We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back,” said Dr. King.

Many protests have been self-organized on social media, initiated by youth declaring, “We reject Trumpland and the dystopian future it has in store for us.” Tens of thousands are wearing safety pins to declare their opposition to the Trump policies.

Defiance is taking place on a much larger scale, too. States, counties, and cities are assuring fearful residents, “We will oppose Trump. We stand for tolerance. We are a safe place for immigrants, Muslims, people of color, women and the LGBT community.”

Several protests are being organized to coincide with the inauguration, including the Women’s March on Washington on January 21. This protest grew out of Pantsuit Nation, a Facebook group that has grown to 3.7 million members.

No one will walk alone. And it will take tens of millions, the majority of Americans, to block the Trump agenda. As Lenin said, “Politics begin where the masses are, not where there are thousands, but where there are millions, that is where serious politics begin.”

Broad all-people’s unity: resistance, solidarity, and tolerance

This is a fight to defend democracy and humanity. Trump and everything he stands for must not be allowed to be seen in any way as normal or “just another GOP administration.” This is a fight for the moral heart of the nation. Everything Trump and the GOP stand for is immoral and repugnant.

What is absolutely necessary now is building a united multi-class, multi-racial, multi-gender identity, multi-generational, interfaith movement of every organization, network, institution, and political persuasion in opposition to the Trump agenda, without condition.

Such a movement already starts with a mass base. Trump assumes office as the most reviled and deeply unpopular president in history. Over half the electorate voted against him.

Unity must be built with every conceivable ally – starting with the people’s coalition led by labor, communities of color, the Civil Right Movement including #blacklivesmatter, climate justice, the immigrant rights movement, including the Dreamers, LGBTQ community, Muslims and Jewish Americans, women’s equality organizations, and youth and students.

All these organizations, networks, and movements will have to work in alliance with the Democratic Party, including its corporate wing and all parts of what was the Hillary Clinton electoral coalition, including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and those inspired by the Bernie Sanders campaign, particularly the millions of youth.

It will include those who sat on the sidelines during the elections or who voted for Green Party candidate Jill Stein and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.

At times and depending on the issue, it might include moderate Republicans and sections of the GOP establishment, former government officials, and independents. Because the GOP majority in the Senate has shrunk, some GOP senators may join with Democrats to oppose particular Trump policies.

It will embrace the interfaith religious community, including some currently influenced by right-wing fundamentalism. Catholic Bishops have already expressed their opposition to Trump’s immigration policies.

It includes public schools, universities, and media – particularly independent media – who will be under attack. It is too early to tell if major corporate media will buckle under the Trump threats or the fear of losing access to the president and favorable regulatory decisions.

It includes artists, cultural performers, celebrities, and athletes. The weekend after the election, David Chappelle, a Tribe Called Quest and cast turned Saturday Night Live into a protest. And Jalen Rose said NBA players would likely boycott the White House as long as Trump is president, and many NBA teams have announced boycotts of Trump hotels.

It will have to include millions who voted for Trump but who oppose Republican attacks on specific programs like Obamacare, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, reproductive rights, public school funding, and their unions and other mass organizations.

It already includes governing entities and democratic institutions, entire states, counties, and municipalities.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared, “Whether you are gay or straight, Muslim or Christian, rich or poor, black or white or brown, we respect all people in the state of New York. It’s the very core of what we believe and who we are… We don’t allow a federal government that attacks immigrants to do so in our state.”

New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco have reaffirmed their commitment as Sanctuary Cities and vowed not to cooperate with ICE, despite threats by Trump to cut funding. They can become places of solidarity, tolerance, and resistance in defense of Muslims, immigrants, women, and unions while defending democracy and the path of sustainable development to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

No one should be left standing on the sidelines. And assembling this powerful opposition will be the first step toward regrouping for the 2018 elections.

Role of the CPUSA, the left, and progressives

The CPUSA, the non-sectarian left, and progressive activists can play a vital role in building this broad multi-racial, multi-class united people’s movement to block Trump. Every organization and individual can play a vital role in building the movement to block Trump. Sectarian pressures to narrow the scope and scale of the movement must be resisted.

First, movements are arising spontaneously in response to Trump. Everyone can initiate or help build these grassroots responses on a neighborhood, city, and state level.

Secondly, help to build the labor-led people’s coalition component of this alliance. The multi-racial, multi-gender, multi-generational working class in alliance with communities of color, women, and youth should put their stamp on the broader united people’s movement to defend democracy by pushing forward the issues and helping build its breadth and depth. We should assist in defending and building the labor movement, and all the democratic movements intersecting with it.

Thirdly, at the core of this is the fight for multi-racial, multi-gender unity, so deeply under assault by the white supremacists. Efforts should be redoubled to combat the racism, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, and Islamophobia that are aimed at splintering the working class and people.

Fourthly, the people’s coalition led by labor should continue to advance a program of economic, democratic, and sustainable restructuring combined with addressing structural racial and gender inequity. We will not be deterred from the march toward a sustainable, multi-racial, multi-cultural, inclusive society of economic, racial, and gender equity.

Fight and resist now!

Trump must be fought at every turn and in every arena: in the streets, the legislative, political, and electoral arenas and in the battle of ideas.

Without a broad and vigorous resistance from every conceivable sector on every conceivable front, descent further into authoritarianism or worse is possible. Without a fight, those who voted for Trump based on an appeal to white supremacy can be drawn into an organized and full blown white supremacist and fascist movement.

“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross,” goes a saying that is widely attributed to the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, Sinclair Lewis. And we could add, its bearer will be a reality TV star.

When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.

We are guided by the words of the great Bulgarian Communist Georgi Dimitrov in his famous speech to the 7th World Congress of the Communist International in 1935:

“[B]efore the establishment of a fascist dictatorship, (capitalist) governments usually pass through a number of preliminary stages and adopt a number of reactionary measures which directly facilitate the accession to power of fascism. Whoever does not fight the reactionary measures of the (capitalists) and the growth of fascism at these preparatory stages is not in a position to prevent the victory of fascism, but, on the contrary, facilitates that victory.”

Or as Dumbledore, the wise elderly headmaster of Hogwarts, warned, “It was important to fight, and fight again, and keep fighting, for only then could evil be kept at bay, though never quite eradicated.”

Solidarity with targets and the most vulnerable

The Trump victory has emboldened the forces of bigotry and unleashed a wave of hate, harassment, and violence. There have already been over 900 reported incidents. This moment calls for an immediate and unambiguous response: not here, not now, not ever.

The scapegoating, discrimination, and violence against Muslims, immigrants, people of color, the LGBTQ community, women, unions, and other democratic organizations will only increase as the new administration seeks ways to divide the working class and people and ram through its reactionary policies.

It begins with extending solidarity to the immediate targets – beginning with Muslims and undocumented immigrants. A registry for Muslims is being floated which is aimed at picking off the most vulnerable target first and dividing the people. This must be fought at every step. Attacks on Muslims and undocumented immigrants will result in racial profiling, the targeting of entire communities, and the undermining democratic rights for all.

An attack on one is an attack on all.

We are reminded of the words of Pastor Martin Niemöller,

First they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.

 Muslims, immigrants, women, and the LGBTQ community are not the only ones at the point of attack. Mass organizations that form the bulwark against attacks on democratic rights – the entire organized labor movement and organizations like Planned Parenthood – are in the crosshairs.

Historic democratic gains including public education, the entire legislative and legal edifice of the New Deal, Great Society, Voting Rights, Civil Rights, Disability Rights, reproductive rights, and environmental rights are under assault. Basic constitutional rights are under assault along with violations of international law reauthorizing waterboarding and other forms of torture.

The ACLU stated of Trump’s plans, “These proposals are not simply un-American and wrongheaded, they are unlawful and unconstitutional. They violate the First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments.”

Depending on how he separates himself from his business empire, Trump will enter office already violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution by accepting favors for his foreign investments and with foreign dignitaries staying at the opulent new Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Defense of labor

The multi-racial, multi-gender identity, multi-generational, labor movement played a leading role in the electoral coalition backing Clinton. There is no doubt were it bigger she might have won. The labor movement was also the most effective organizer in the communities of white workers, dispelling lies and challenging the Trump demagogy.

But the labor movement has been crippled and in some cases decimated through plant closings, layoffs, and anti-labor legislation in key Midwest battleground states won by Trump, especially Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

A central and strategic aim of this administration will be the destruction of the labor movement. They will draw on Republican success at the state level to pass a national right-to-work law and attempt to destroy public sector unions.

The timely death of Justice Antonin Scalia was the only thing that prevented the Supreme Court from deciding against unions in Friedrichs v California Teachers Association.

Trump’s proposed $1 trillion infrastructure bill may be used to split the labor movement and consolidate his support, while rewarding investors through privatization of projects. We join with labor to insist workers be paid prevailing wages, the work be done by union members, and affirmative action guidelines implemented. There should be no privatization of finished projects.

Engaging with Trump voters; exposing the GOP

Trump won among white voters across the board and these voters must be engaged in cities, suburbs, small cities, rural areas, “red states,” and “red districts”.

There is no avoiding engaging and winning these voters if Trump and the right wing are to be defeated and social progress achieved. They too will feel the lash.

During the election, Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO held effective “porch conversations” in largely white communities. They were counteracting right-wing influence among white workers who were being misled to abandon multi-racial working class unity.

The Moral Movement in North Carolina led by the Rev. William J. Barber III has assembled a labor-civil rights-immigrant rights-religious coalition that is reaching deeply into the small towns and rural areas of the state. It is modeled on the idea that a united multi-racial working class and people are necessary for all social advances.

This requires building movements and coalitions, including the electoral coalition that works in and with the Democratic Party, on the ground in such places to oppose the assault on Social Security, Medicare, healthcare, etc. – winning people on the basis of self-interest, common destiny, and morality.

It means ramping up engagement in the “battle of ideas” through expanding the reach of the People’s World and independent progressive mass media to millions now getting their news and information from right-wing media sources.

Wolf at the door

Tens of millions awoke Nov. 9 terrified by the realization the wolf is not only at the White House door, but has entered the Oval Office. Trump has brought the most extreme political forces from the political fringes into the mainstream and into the White House. GOP elected officials are normalizing the existence of these forces at the center of government as they stumble in line behind Trump. They are getting an assist from sections of the corporate mass media that are treating this like a normal conservative GOP administration.

Contrary to his claims though, Trump is no anti-establishment outsider. Right-wing billionaires, the Heritage Foundation, and corporate lobbyists back him. They will stock his cabinet and are providing policy blueprints and lists of names to stack departments and the judiciary at all levels.

These forces, along with ALEC and the Koch Brothers, now control 33 governorships and two-thirds of state legislative chambers. They have been ruthlessly unfolding their wrecking agenda in these states. Reactionary policy will now unfold in foreign affairs as well, including withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord and the Iran Nuclear Agreement and reversing normalization of relations with Cuba.

Authoritarianism and corruption

The authoritarianism and corruption of this new regime will deepen the inherent crises and contradictions of capitalism, between society and nature, and the existential crisis the planet faces due to climate change. The new balance of power will usher in instability and unpredictability, greatly aggravating class, racial, and social tensions, as well as economic and social inequality.

Trump arose amidst the divisions within the GOP. As Dimitrov noted, “In reality, fascism usually comes to power in the course of a mutual, and at times severe, struggle against the old bourgeois parties, or a definite section of these parties.”

Authoritarian regimes are historically unstable and characterized by infighting, jockeying for the leader’s ear, corruption, enemy lists, and ruthless retribution. We are seeing that all play out in the Trump transition.

This administration will have features of both a kleptocracy (rule by thieves) and a kakistocracy (a form of government in which the worst and least qualified persons are in power). These forces now have full access to the state security apparatus, which they also utilized during the campaign by colluding with right-wing rogue elements in the FBI.

This administration will have features of both a kleptocracy (rule by thieves) and a kakistocracy (a form of government in which the worst and least qualified persons are in power).

They will govern the way they campaigned – through division, fear, and intimidation. This is the meaning of the appointment of the white supremacist, anti-Semite, and former CEO of Breitbart News, Steve Bannon as White House chief strategist.

Breitbart News, the mouthpiece of the so-called alt-right, a white supremacist movement, will be a de facto state mass communication arm of the Trump presidency – its ministry of information, marshaling supporters and attacking opponents.

During the administration of Pres. George W. Bush, the neo-cons arrogantly declared, “We create our own reality.” They were in for a rude awakening.

Trump will also confront new global and climate realities, economic integration, regional trade pacts, treaties, and alliances. In today’s world, the U.S. is a descending power and China and other countries are ascending powers. In addition to the domestic resistance movement, these will all act as countervailing forces to his unfolding policies.

The American people face difficult and ugly days ahead. The ferocity of the attack and suffering will be enormous, but the fight against it will stir hearts too. With unity, solidarity, and steadfastness, the Trump menace can and will be defeated.

Causes of defeat – Not just economic populism

However bitter this year’s election defeat, the broad electoral coalition that backed Hillary Clinton should not despair. Despite the unprecedented forces arrayed against her, she received the majority of votes. Trump did win 61.4 million votes though – a sobering indication of the extent of the mass right-wing Republican base.

Trump won 1.5 million more votes than Mitt Romney, indicating the right wing base has grown, but not substantially. However, the most extreme part of it has grown stronger, allowing white supremacists to take over the Republican Party apparatus.

Clinton received almost 65 million votes, nearly as many as President Obama in 2012. However, that’s still 4.5 million votes less than in 2008. And while Clinton assembled much the same coalition that twice carried Obama to victory, those voters turned out in lower percentages across the board.

And after voting for President Obama in 2008 and 2012, a section of white voters in Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania shifted their support to Trump. How was it that Trump, a corrupt, selfish billionaire, who flies around in a private gold-plated jet, was able to portray himself as an anti-establishment outsider?

For sure, the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party establishment bears their own measure of responsibility for this defeat, which I will discuss below. But I don’t think the argument Clinton was a “weak” candidate is convincing, considering her tenacity and all she overcame. There is more than an element of sexism in that statement.

Defeat cannot simply be laid at the doorstep of the Clinton campaign. It takes an electoral coalition to win an election in our two-party system, and the winning coalition is different in each election, even if just by degrees. How those coalitions are built depends on specific circumstances.

Take the 2008 election for example. The U.S. was in the midst of the biggest economic freefall since the Great Depression. Pres. George W. Bush was universally despised and blamed for the mess. Millions wanted change. They chose Obama, a once-in-a-lifetime candidate, over John McCain. Because many whites voted for Obama in 2008, some observers argue that it therefore can’t be true that these same voters were influenced by racism in 2016 when they changed course and voted for Trump.

But the situation in 2016 is different. Millions are fed up with politics as usual. They are angry at Wall Street, political institutions, and candidates associated with economic elites. Many saw Clinton as a representative of that world, but they gave the billionaire Trump a pass.

They are frustrated and cynical about gridlock, corruption, and corporate domination of government. Much of this so-called anti-establishment vote was influenced by the steady drumbeat of anti-government rhetoric and developed against the backdrop of the eight-year sabotage of the Obama administration by the extreme right in Congress.

Nevertheless, I don’t think this was primarily an economic populist revolt or a protest against political elites. If that were the case why did African Americans, the most sophisticated portion of the electorate, and Latino and Asian Americans overwhelmingly vote for Clinton? After all, communities of color are also experiencing great economic distress, compounded by racism.

This was not primarily an economic populist revolt or a protest against political elites.

Voters in these communities feel the same alienation to political elites, but they still voted for a Democratic Party establishment candidate connected to Wall Street to block a billionaire tycoon. Millions of working families – black, brown, and white – are all experiencing economic pain, declining living standards, debt, joblessness, poverty, discrimination, and bigotry. They are fearful and desperately want change.

While millions of whites stood with their black and brown sisters and brothers, some 58 percent voted for Trump. They voted against their own economic interests. Trump won a majority of every category of white voters.

The question is, why? We have to dig deeper into the larger economic, social, and political context.

Rooted in the brutal enslavement of millions of Africans and genocide against Indigenous peoples, racism has been a central thread throughout our nation’s history. It was instrumental in maintaining the slavocracy and after that, capitalist class power more generally. It has been used to extract super profits and to justify economic, social, and institutional inequality. It has been a central part of the story of growing right wing power over the past 60 years.

The “Southern Strategy” employed by Richard Nixon and later by Ronald Reagan succeeded as part of the backlash by reactionary forces to the vast social changes of the 1960s. The election of the nation’s first African American president was met by unprecedented obstruction by the GOP and reactionary sections of capital based on racism challenging his legitimacy as president. To this day, a large section of this right-wing base is so influenced by the racism of the “birther” movement led by Trump that they still believe Obama is not a U.S. citizen.

The demographic character of the U.S. is rapidly changing, with cultural and social mores shifting along with it. A new role for women and the LGBTQ community is emerging. All are shaping a new multi-racial, multi-national, multi-gender identity, multi-cultural, multi-lingual people and nation.

And these changes are taking place over the span of just a few decades. Since 1965, the immigrant population has grown from 9.6 million to 45 million, accounting for 55 percent of U.S. population growth. Between 1980 and 2008, the foreign-born Latino population grew four-fold from 4.2 million to 17.8 million.

These economic, demographic, cultural, and social changes (and the pace at which they are occurring) are unsettling to many whites. The backlash represented by a significant portion of the Trump vote is a reaction against the new multi-racial, multi-cultural society embodied in Obama and the Obama coalition.

In that sense, there are parallels with the Brexit vote. The tremendous social and economic stresses brought on by massive and rapid immigration on top of economic austerity and crisis were unsettling to millions.

The election has to be understood within the wider context of neoliberal capitalist globalization, which has brought massive social change and dislocation. Since the 1970s, unfair trade pacts, outsourcing, and automation have produced deindustrialization and left communities devastated. Death rates, suicides, and use of opiates are up. Economic stagnation, declining real wages, and a soaring wealth gap have left millions feeling left out, angry, and hopeless.

The same process of hollowing out industrial centers, creating highly segregated deep pockets of poverty in African American communities, is also causing deep poverty in rural areas and small industrial cities of segregated white communities. Many whites, particularly men, are among the victims of plant closings, wage cuts, home foreclosures, and economic dislocation – particularly in the Upper Midwest states.

Mass layoffs and plant and mine closings have heightened competition for jobs in the working class, sharpening racial anxieties and tensions, sexism, and xenophobia. Many whites feel their dignity and self-worth disappear as their economic status declines and the world and their place in it rapidly changes. They and their communities are up against powerful global economic forces they cannot fathom and feel helpless to fight.

The rapidly changing multi-racial character of the working class, growing multiculturalism, the changing role of women and growth of religious diversity – all of these challenge the world of white domination, patriarchy, and dominant Christianity, leaving many unsettled. They are used to the relative advantages stemming from race, gender, and citizenship.

Growing multiculturalism, the changing role of women and growth of religious diversity – all of these challenge the world of white domination.

When they are united with their class brothers and sisters in struggle, these workers experience the power of multi-racial, male-female class unity. They understand their advance is tied to expanding democracy for all. However, with deindustrialization also comes the destruction of the one organization that has united them with other communities – their union. They can become ideologically disarmed and have no way to understand these changes from a working class perspective. Instead of multi-racial class unity, the void is filled with something else – racial identity politics.

They wanted change, but in this case, it was regressive change.

“When workers were in unions alongside others who had different color skin, holding together a viable multiracial working class coalition was possible,” says a study by the New School for Social Research. “But unions have been destroyed [in the rust belt states]…and stunning economic decline has made it easy for narratives of zero-sum competition between different social groups to take hold. This is why so many are vulnerable to a demagogic appeal to ‘take back our country.’”

“With his tirades against nonwhites and foreign others, (Trump) reopened the argument,” wrote Jamelle Bouie in Slate. “In effect, he gave white voters a choice: They could continue down the path of multiracial democracy – which coincided with the end of an order in which white workers were the first priority of national leaders – or they could reject it in favor of someone who offered that presumptive treatment. Who promised to ‘make America great again,’ to make it look like the America of Trump’s youth and their youths, where whites – and white men in particular – were the uncontested masters of the country.”

For many whites, Trump taps into resentment against “distant elites” and speaks to their fear of a rapidly changing multi-cultural world along with new social mores and non-sectarianism.

“But it’s not an accident that Trump and the European far right surged at roughly the same time. Both of them, in different fashions, figured out a core fact of the world: There are a lot of white people in the West who blame distant elites for allowing – or accelerating – their loss of economic and political power. [Populists’] greatest support is concentrated among the older generation, men, the religious, majority populations, and the less educated – sectors generally left behind by progressive tides of cultural value change,” wrote Zack Beauchamp in Vox.

Through such appeals, a campaign based on white supremacy was able to win a majority of white voters. This helps explain also how, over the past few decades, as the white vote as a percentage of the electorate has decreased, white support for GOP candidates has increased. There has occurred a qualitative shift; the time was ripe for a white supremacist takeover of the GOP.

The time was ripe for a white supremacist takeover of the GOP.

People are constantly being influenced by opposing ideas. They are often of multiple minds. Whites can simultaneously be influenced by both racist and anti-racist ideas. They respond to events depending on experience and their depth of consciousness. With higher levels of class, anti-racist, and anti-sexist consciousness, they can resist the poison of racism.

The same dynamic contributed to the lower level of resistance to voter suppression laws – which were especially aimed at disenfranchising African Americans, low-income workers, and youth. The result this year was an estimated 3 to 5 million disenfranchised voters.

These factors all show that it was not just class issues and economic populism that were at play in this election, but also broad democratic questions around gender, nationality and race. And incidentally, one can’t ignore how those issues played out in the Democratic Party primary either.

Bernie Sanders conducted a historic and unprecedented campaign, energized young and first time voters, and brought advanced ideas and socialism into the discussion. Certainly Sanders had a central role in shaping the Democratic Party platform.

But so did the Fight for $15, Black Lives Matter, the Dreamers, the climate justice movement, the LGBTQ community, and others who have helped shift mass public opinion over the past few years. And the deep support for

Clinton also shaped the platform including by advancing equal pay for equal work, criminal justice reform, etc. Her deep support among women, African Americans, and Latinos cannot be ignored. After all, she got 3 million more votes than Sanders.

What was needed coming out of the primaries was the broadest possible unity on the issues, keeping forces backing both candidates as united as possible for the general election battle.

Right-wing influence

The right-wing mass media, often uncontested, influences wide swaths of the country. Millions, including working people, get their news and opinion, much of it based on lies and conspiracy theories, from Fox News, hate talk radio, and white supremacist and hate groups. Those living in racially segregated communities, suburbs, small cities, and rural areas are especially vulnerable.

Breitbart “News,” the platform of the so-called alt-right, reaches millions. Such outlets acted as a free mass communications arm of the Trump campaign. There was also the deluge of false news and conspiracies spread by the right wing on social media. And of course the major cable TV networks cannot be forgotten; it is estimated Trump received over $2 billion in free coverage from them.

The Republican Party apparatus in the various states, the National Rifle Association, and the right-wing Christian fundamentalist churches all got out the vote for Trump. Right-wing religious institutions and networks, especially conservative evangelicals, have been a key part of the modern extreme right movement. Twenty-six percent of the electorate were Christian evangelical voters; 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump, the highest vote for a Republican since 2004.

While Clinton’s unfavorable rating was 55 percent among voters overall, it was 80 percent among evangelicals. The key issue for evangelicals appears to have been abortion. For 21 percent of voters, abortion was a bottom line issue, up from 13 percent in 2008.

“The American Renewal Project representing right wing Christian Evangelical churches spent over $10 million and organized an extensive get-out-the-vote operation among Evangelicals in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, and Iowa. Trump won five of the six,” bragged right-wing blogger David Brody.

The payoff to these forces will be the appointment of a U.S. Supreme Court Justice who will vote to repeal Roe v. Wade, outlaw abortion, and perhaps undermine same-sex marriage by ensuring legal protections for religious conservatives to discriminate.

Pervasive misogyny

 Hillary Clinton conducted a historic campaign. The election of the first woman president was a material force, a motivating and inspiring cause for millions. Had she won, it would have been an advance for democracy, as was the election of Barack Obama. As a public figure shaped by the turbulent 1960s, Clinton has been a leader of the movement to advance women’s rights. She embodies the rapidly changing status of women in society and, consequently, has been the object of every form of misogyny and hate.

Millions were inspired by her history-making campaign. Not surprisingly, she won by the highest gender margin ever, with women of color leading the way. Sexism and misogyny in their most blatant forms, however, were at the center of the election. They prevented millions from voting for the first woman president. Instead they voted against their class interests and advancing gender equity – a basic democratic issue.

Influences of sexism on the left, and even in the Party, were also all too prevalent during the election and the primaries. There is no other plausible explanation for the deep hatred and venom directed at Clinton including by many on the left. There is no other explanation for the characterizations that she “can’t be trusted,” is a “serial liar,” “coldly ambitious,” and was a “weak” candidate.

Influences of sexism on the left, and even in the Party, were also all too prevalent.

Aside from the women’s equality movement, gender issues were too often downplayed or pitted against other concerns by the left. The movements and society overall pay for these “sins of omission.”
Nevertheless, Clinton’s candidacy was historic and, despite her defeat, many women, including women of color, were elected to Congress. This year’s campaign provoked the most wide-ranging public discussion about misogyny and the pervasiveness of sexual assault that I can recall. Perhaps the thing I am most self-critical about is not fighting even harder and speaking out more forcefully against the misogyny and sexism that pervaded this campaign.

If we are to advance, the interconnections between class, race, and gender need to be deepened. It would do us all well, especially men, to reflect more deeply on this.

It’s really up to white people and especially white men – and furthermore, communists, socialists and those with broad awareness – to take the lead in reaching those who were misdirected and are under the sway of reactionary ideology.
Reviled by the right

During Bill Clinton’s administration, Hillary Clinton forged her own role, stood up to right-wing efforts to destroy her husband’s presidency, and became a political force in her own right. The extreme right never forgave her for it and she has been vilified ever since.

Republicans transformed her use of a private email server and unproven allegations of corruption in the Clinton Foundation into criminal acts in the public mind. Chants of “Lock her up!” dogged Clinton at every step. Days before the election, FBI director James Comey, at the behest of a right-wing gang within the Bureau, revived suspicions of criminality when he reopened the email investigation. The damage was done. Many voters, including suburban white women on the fence, decided to vote for Trump.

In addition to the FBI interference, the Clinton candidacy was also up against Julian Assange, working in unison with the Russian oligarchy and probably the Putin government. Wikileaks’ constant email dumps created chaos on the eve of the Democratic Party convention, kept Clinton on the defensive throughout the campaign, and cast a shadow implying that she was hiding something.

This kind of interference, especially by a foreign government, is unprecedented. The criminalization of Clinton overshadowed her program and allowed some voters to give in to false equivalencies. To them, she was no better than Trump. Many of these voters either sat out the election or voted third party.

Mistakes of the campaign

The Clinton campaign certainly made mistakes and had some built-in flaws. Clinton was the face of the Democratic Party corporate establishment, part of the political and economic power structure at a time of growing anti-corporate outrage.

She opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but because of Pres. Obama’s support for it, her previous backing of the pact, and the free trade agreements negotiated by the Bill Clinton administration, she could not escape association with the TPP. Her paid speeches at Goldman Sachs gave further credence to the image of her being Wall Street’s candidate.

Clinton ran, however, on the most progressive platform of any major party in history. She addressed class, race, and gender issues, yet her economic message still didn’t resonate strongly with enough voters. The campaign too often chose to focus on the unfitness of Trump as commander-in-chief rather than on day-to-day economic concerns.

It did not effectively build on Bernie Sanders’ call to change the “rigged economic system.” His candidacy tapped into mass thinking, energized millions of voters, especially young people, and was instrumental in shaping the Democratic platform.

The Democratic Party and the campaign failed to reach out to large swaths of small towns, cities and rural areas that were largely populated by whites. It relied too much on demographic changes alone to win a progressive governing majority. The temptation to write off white communities and the fifty-state strategy was a fatal flaw.

The 2016 elections were a huge setback for social progress and pose an enormous danger to democracy and life on Earth. However, the defeat is rich in lessons upon which greater unity can be forged. Without that, we will be powerless to block the coming assault on truth, social programs, basic democratic rights, peace, and the environment.

Growing the CPUSA and while building unity

The CPUSA can be proud of its involvement in the 2016 elections. We were deeply immersed throughout and unfolded our work within the strategic framework of defeating the extreme right. We understood the stakes, the authoritarian and fascist danger, and the need to build the broadest possible unity to defend democracy and the environment.

We saw the need to help build a multi-class alliance – with the people’s coalition led by labor, our multi-racial, multi-gender identity, multi-generational working class at the center – that united broad left and center political currents. We saw the interrelationship between economic and class issues and other democratic questions, including racial and gender equity.

We had and have no illusions about the class character of the Democratic Party, but we also understood the composition of its social base and the nature of the electoral coalition working in and with it – a coalition which is radically different from the Republican Party.

We had and have no illusions about the class character of the Democratic Party.

We understood the dynamics of the class and democratic struggle being waged within the developing all-people’s coalition amassed within the Democratic Party. We saw the need to build structures of political independence, beginning with the labor movement.

During the primaries, our approach allowed for being critical of the Clinton and Sanders campaigns when required. Both responded to the impact of events and rising movements.

While we saw the historic importance of the Sanders campaign, and most of our members were active in it, our approach allowed for much more flexibility. Like the AFL-CIO, our approach gave space for those supporting Clinton.

It also recognized the historic importance of the Clinton campaign and saw electing the first woman president as an advance for democracy. It recognized substantial parts of labor, the African American and Latino communities, and women were backing her.

The CP saw the historic importance of the Clinton campaign and saw electing the first woman president as an advance for democracy.

It recognized Clinton was the target of 25 years of right-wing venom, misogyny, and sexism. Defending her was also defending democracy.

The Sanders’ candidacy provided the basis for a mass public discussion of socialism, made many advanced programmatic contributions, and mobilized and energized millions of voters particularly youth. While Sanders moved Clinton to adopt more advanced positions, he was also giving voice to movements that were already in motion shaping issues and public opinion.

Meanwhile, Clinton was also responding with advanced overtures of her own, such as equal pay for equal work, criminal justice reform, and campaigning with Mothers of the Movement. All of these helped shape the Democratic platform and came in response to rising movements.

Some say the CPUSA’s strategy has been an ineffective one and point to Trump’s victory is proof. Some say history proves multi-class alliances opposing the most reactionary sections of capital actually heighten attacks on democracy (an anarchist assertion).

I disagree. We were one of the few organizations that recognized the early right-wing danger and called for all-people’s unity to defeat it. This concept is widely accepted today.

It is the only strategy capable of mobilizing millions. It is premised on ascertaining the current stage of the democratic struggle and identifying and amassing all the key class and social forces for that stage which will result in victory.

The Party’s work, of course, was not without shortcomings. We had differences in emphasis – sharp ones at times. There were pressures to narrowly focus on the role of the left, rather than building broad, flexible left-center unity. There were pressures to abandon the idea of multi-class alliances in favor of class versus class. There were pressures to aim fire at Clinton rather than the extreme right danger. That would have resulted in distancing us from the broad electoral coalition backing Clinton.

Some of our members were influenced by these ideas and were never convinced of the anti-extreme right strategy. They saw no significant difference between Clinton and Trump, insisting both were creatures of Wall Street, and leaving it at that. Some were influenced by misogyny. Some saw no reason to engage in the electoral arena of struggle. Most of these members sat out the elections.

We could have done better explaining and popularizing our strategic policy and helping people understand how this stage of struggle is related to advancing to more radical economic, political, and social reforms.

Embracing what is new

The anti-extreme right strategy is not a static concept. It should be seen in light of new developments, especially changes in the balance of class and political forces.

Much has changed since 1981 when the Party first introduced this concept, rooted in the Popular Front and United Front strategies from the fight against fascism in the 1930s and 1940s, as well as in Lenin’s concept of the democratic struggle.

The political balance has to be constantly assessed and new factors taken into account. They include the growing wealth gap, the re-emergence of an oligarchy and its increasingly reactionary character, long-term wage stagnation, job loss, and deepening social inequality.

It has to take into account the advance of capitalist globalization and neoliberalism, the falling barriers to the movement of capital and labor, and massive demographic shifts. Reactionary trends in response to the deepening crisis of U.S. imperialism and its declining global status also have to figure in our calculations.

The climate crisis has grown to become an existential threat, and there is a clear connection between rising greenhouse gas emissions and the fossil fuel industry – one of the key support bases for the extreme right.

The climate crisis has grown to become an existential threat.

The emergence of the new labor movement which we can now observe followed the election of a left-center leadership in 1995. It facilitated the emergence of the multi-racial, multi-gender, multi-generational labor movement as a leader of social movements overall through its alliances with other core forces.

Labor has also suffered tremendous losses in membership and reach, however, due to anti-labor attacks, outsourcing, automation, and plant closings.

The people’s coalition led by labor has greatly matured politically and ideologically through many battles. Many new social movements have arisen – including the LGBTQ movement, Black Lives Matters, Dreamers, Fight for $15, climate justice, and more.

Public opinion has shifted in a progressive direction on some key issues. What is new is the growth of broad left thinking, including a growing number who embrace radical economic and social restructuring and ideas of socialism.

Simultaneously, the right has grown, including its base and its grip on government at all levels. What is new is the mainstreaming of white supremacy and takeover of the Republican Party by these forces. The danger of a full-fledged fascist movement is emerging.

The U.S. electorate is deeply polarized and right wing obstruction has led to increasing political gridlock. The stage of defeating the extreme right and building a broad united multi-class, multi-racial, multi-gender, multi-generational coalition, with the people’s coalition led by labor at its core is needed now more than ever. There will be no social progress, no saving planet Earth, without breaking right-wing domination of government and politics.

Party unity

Given the victory of Trump and GOP control over all branches of government, the need for unity is greater than ever. The need for our strategic and tactical concepts, analysis and vision, also indicates the need for a bigger more influential CPUSA.

The need for party unity is greater than ever too if we are to be a factor in building this united multi-class alliance and movement, especially within the people’s coalition led by labor. This is a responsibility of every leader and member.

Disunity in the face of defeat can have catastrophic consequences. The setbacks around 1991 are a reminder. The collapse of socialism in the USSR and Eastern Europe represented a global defeat for socialism and the working class. It created demoralization and confusion.

Its ramifications spilled over into U.S. politics and impacted the party, contributing to deep divisions, an organizational crisis, and a split that both sides paid a heavy and lasting price for.

At such times, confusion can ensue and passions can be inflamed. Danger arises when sharp differences are allowed to become cleavages and evolve into something far worse.

Space for disagreement

How we handle differences has huge consequences. We need greater patience, flexibility, communication, and trust to freshly and soberly assess our experience. We need to avoid drawing lines in the sand.

We need to be flexible and leave plenty of space for disagreements and have what could be called a “big tent” approach. In other words, sometimes we have to live with differences while we continue to discuss and re-examine questions based on fresh experience. We also have to leave space for people to change.

We should also be conscious how non-party allies, including those interested in joining, view this process. Many are asking, “How will I be viewed if I don’t agree with this position or that? How much space is there for differences?”

We can only resolve differences constructively by respecting the integrity of collective channels, bodies, and democratic processes. No one should have to hear things via the grapevine. Healthy collectives make it possible for anyone to raise concerns, questions, issues, complaints, or criticisms and create the atmosphere for a comradely exchange of views and experiences.

We can only resolve differences constructively by respecting the integrity of collective channels.

There is far more that unites the party, including: our understanding of the revolutionary role of our working class; our strategy and tactics in the 2016 elections; the fight for racial and gender equality; the urgency of addressing the existential threat of climate change; our socialist vision rooted in economic and political democracy; and our understanding of the essence of a revolutionary party rooted in the ideas of Marx, Lenin and our own American revolutionary democratic tradition.

A few weeks ago, we phone banked over 1,000 new members and had many wonderful conversations. This was their first direct contact for most, and they were excited to receive the call. They love the Party and are eager to be more involved. These new members are precious, a part of the future that unites us. They are counting on us.

Current differences

Over the last few years, we have experienced some sharp differences on: the role and nature of the party; the approach to youth; the centering of resources around People’s World and mass communications; organizing our theoretical work; and most recently, election tactics and the resignation of Sam Webb, the former national chair of the CPUSA.

(The work of,, our approach to youth, and membership engagement and outreach were addressed in remarks by others to the meeting.)

I want to address some rumors and outright falsehoods that have created confusion, distractions, and suspicion. There is a lot of misinformation that has contributed to unnecessarily sharpening differences. Because these rumors and “fake news” have circulated outside collectives and on social media, it is very difficult to address them forthrightly.

First, there is no proposal to dissolve state organizations or clubs. A few members raised this idea during the 2014 pre-convention discussion period and even in the post-convention period.

For many years we have advocated building a network of vibrant grassroots action-oriented clubs. This is why we created a new assignment, which Rossana Cambron agreed to undertake, called Membership Engagement Coordinator. Her job is to assist building clubs and state organizations and encourage ways to involve members in activity. This is also why we hold National Schools for club and district activists and provide forums for exchanging experience.

However, this comes with a caveat: we should not be limited by past conceptions of how clubs are organized. We should be flexible and open to different forms of organization, i.e. neighborhood, citywide, workplace, campus, via teleconference or Skype, or based on interest. We should experiment with anything that brings people together in common collective action.

Secondly, it is not the case that we are only for building the Party online or “in the cloud.” On the contrary, online and in-person organizing are interconnected. One cannot be a viable organization today without mastering modern mass digital communications, social media, and social networking. Each complements the other.

Thirdly, we are not dropping Leninism or the ideas of Lenin. This includes Lenin’s concept of the revolutionary party rooted in the working class with the aim of socialism – a party devoted to developing strategy and tactics, studying stages of struggle, following the democratic path, and centered around the press (in the current day, this means the digital media, i.e.

However, this also comes with a caveat. Life and the class struggle didn’t end with Lenin. To be relevant and viable we have to embrace developments and the wealth of experience since then, including what is new in the class and democratic struggles, politics and culture, and strategy and tactics – especially in the U.S. revolutionary democratic tradition. The Party has to constantly, creatively, and non-dogmatically elaborate Marxism and adapt itself to new realities.

Fourth, there is no proposal to sell the New York building. That idea was raised in the National Committee last year and effectively addressed at that time. We are doing everything we can to safeguard assets and resources for both present and future generations.

However, we must do more to maximize use of our assets, reduce deficits, and expand fundraising to reduce reliance on them.

Fifth, there is no proposal to change the name of the party. I don’t think name is a principled question, but given current differences, discussing such a proposal would be polarizing and harden divisions.

However, it’s unfortunate an atmosphere doesn’t prevail where we can discuss such questions from all sides. We have to concretely assess anti-communism, whether its impact on people and our work is changing and the degree to which it is a marginalizing pressure. The image of communism from a previous era often becomes a caricature, attracting some new members for the wrong reasons. They have misconceptions of our program and how we see the revolutionary process unfolding.

Sixth, there is no proposal to change the essence of the Party program. Although I’m sure given all the developments since our 2014 National Convention, we could find a lot that needs updating.

Finally, Sam Webb’s resignation caused some confusion, concerns, and brought some differences to the surface. We’ve discussed them in the National Board, National Committee, and also held face-to-face discussions with leadership collectives in New York and Ohio. We are happy to have them anywhere else.

Given the gravity of the new political situation, in my opinion, it is far better to focus our efforts on developing our strategy and tactics and moving the entire party into action, rather than attempt to arrive at a consensus over why Sam Webb resigned or his legacy.

He should be counted amongst our socialist and democratic allies and our attitude, as with any ally, should be to work together where we can for the betterment of the movement overall.

Sam may have left, but we remain to continue the collective project of building the party, elaborating our Marxist analysis, broadly applying our strategy and tactics, engaging with a larger audience through People’s World and, and immersing ourselves in building the people’s coalition led by labor and the broadly based all-people’s alliance to defend democracy and contest Trump and the GOP at every turn.


What kind of party are we building?

I’d like to end by reaffirming our vision of the party. I hope we can be collectively self-critical, and adopt changes that will enhance and expand our role and influence – especially in the context of the titanic battle before us to defeat the Trump agenda.

We should reaffirm:

We are building a modern, vibrant, mass party of 21st century socialism rooted in our multi-racial, multi-gender identity, multi-generation working class and communities of color, women, youth, and democratic movements.

A party that continues to deepen its understanding of oppression based on class, gender, sexual orientation, and other forms. A party that fosters the interlocking connections between these, their manifestation in the realm of ideas and practice, and thereby bolsters our ability to fight for a united working class and people.

A party that continues updating its politics, applies Marxism to changing realities, and addresses urgent new questions as they arise.

A party that adjusts and updates its strategy and tactics to assist building the broadest possible unity against Trump and the extreme right and to defend democracy and reverse the climate crisis.

A party that continues to assess the class and political balance of forces, elaborates its approach to stages of struggle and their interconnection, and gains a deeper understanding of the democratic path toward a socialist-oriented society.

A party that continues refining and elaborating its vision of a modern, vibrant, green, peaceful, democratic socialism for the U.S. – one imbued by the deepest sense of humanism and the highest moral values.

A party that contributes to building a larger, more broadly appealing, and united left.

A party that deepens and elaborates its collective Marxist analysis, provides education opportunities, and widely popularizes the ideas of Marxism; that convinces through persuasion rather than administrative measures.

A party that expands its capacity to engage in the battle of ideas by centering work around People’s World and mastering the power of modern mass communications; always adapting to the new ways people consume their information.

A party that adapts organizationally to the impact of mass communications including social media and social networking.

A party that continues to root its assessments, decisions, and work in concrete reality and promotes accountability for its decisions.

This is the kind of party we are creatively building, modernizing, and adapting. This is the type of organization growing numbers are looking to join and be associated with. If we continue to do this, we will become a bigger, stronger, and more influential force in the difficult and challenging days to come.

Image: Creative Commons 3.0