Κυριακή, 10 Απριλίου 2016
Pablo Picasso- Why I became a Communist
Response to recent articles by CPUSA leadership
By James Thompson
The USA is in a highly unusual period. There is a global economic crisis which reaches from Asia to the Middle East to Africa to Europe to South America and North America. No capitalist country is immune to this looming disaster. Oil prices are down, inventories are up, sales are down, stockmarkets are down, interest rates are in purgatory, profits are down, unemployment is up and, understandably, the working class is angry.
At the same time, there is no organized communist or socialist movement on the globe. Historically, communist parties around the globe have fought for the interests of the working class. However, at this juncture, no such party or movement is effective or even exists. To some, it might seem that after years of repression, wars and rumors of wars, the working class has capitulated since the bourgeoisie has the workers on their knees.
The CPUSA has distinguished itself by becoming the vanguard party of the bourgeoisie. The so-called leadership of the CPUSA has recently posted a number of articles which are blatantly anti-Communist and anti-socialist. Let’s take a look.
The first article appeared on January 4, 2016 to welcome in the New Year. It was posted on the People’s World website since the CPUSA no longer has a printed newspaper. It has been reproduced on this blog in an effort to promote public discussion. It was written by Susan Webb who is the ex-wife of former CPUSA chairman, Sam Webb. Sam Webb and his new partner, Elena Mora, have been slowly, meticulously and surely dismantling and liquidating the CPUSA. Ms. Mora recently wrote a letter of resignation from the CPUSA. Susan Webb has been standing by her man (even though he is no longer her man) and at times seems to be attempting to outdo Mr. Webb and Ms. Mora in their efforts to destroy the party. Susan Webb’s article is entitled “Everyone’s talking about socialism, but what is it?”
Ms. Webb’s article sings the praises of Bernie Sanders while condemning the great socialist experiment which was called the Soviet Union. Ms. Webb attempts to outdo the apologists for capitalism by condemning anything which might be considered socialist. She even condemns what she calls “cheesy ‘socialist realism’ paintings.” In doing so, she condemns the likes of Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros, Charles White and John Biggers. These artists painted some of the greatest murals in the world. A recent article in the Houston Chronicle puts a value on one of John Biggers’ murals at over $1 million.
Ms. Webb quotes Bernie Sanders as he praises Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., and Pope Francis. In a speech that, according to Ms. Webb, Sen. Sanders delivered at Georgetown University, he stated “Our government belongs to all of us, and not just the 1%.” He also said, according to Ms. Webb, “you cannot have freedom without economic security” and detailed this as “the right to a decent job at decent pay, the right to adequate food, clothing, and time off from work, the right for every business, large and small, to function in an atmosphere free from unfair competition and domination by monopolies. The right of all Americans to have a decent home and decent healthcare.”
Those of sound mind will quickly recognize here a mixture of fantasy and reality. In the USA, under capitalism, the government serves only one function: To protect the interests of the bourgeoisie. In the history of the USA, there has never been a period in which working people have had any economic security. Unemployment in the USA varies, but has always been high. Access to food, clothing, paid leave, freedom from unfair competition and the right to a decent home and decent healthcare has always been nonexistent.
The problem here is not to achieve a kinder, gentler capitalism. The problem is to chart a reasonable, feasible path of struggle to the goal of socialism. Reforming capitalism can never result in the goals that Ms. Webb and her idol, Bernie Sanders set. Exploitation, repression, wars, racism, sexism, unemployment and other forms of hatred and abuse are inherent in any capitalist society.
Ms. Webb attempts to reduce socialism to co-ops, privately owned companies, individually owned businesses and sets tactics to achieve these goals to include worker decision-making, expanding town halls, implementing proportional representation, taking money out of political campaigns and making voting easy.
Such simplification is merely obfuscation of the main strategic goal of any Communist Party which is to bring about socialism.
Ms. Webb, in her article, returns to a maniacal rant against the Soviet Union. Interestingly, all of her criticisms of socialism and the Soviet Union are based on US propaganda. Her criticisms could have been written by Joseph McCarthy or J Edgar Hoover. She even goes so far as to say that the Soviet Union was not “socialist.” This may be an historical first.
She throws out red flags, Che and Lenin with the bathwater. She does not condemn Democratic Party president Harry Truman for the atom bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and betraying the US ally, the Soviet Union, after their great contribution to the defeat of Nazi Germany. After FDR’s death, Truman changed the course of US foreign policy which resulted in a very expensive Cold War and nuclear arms race which drained the resources of the working class and did irreparable damage to the planet. She did not condemn Democratic Party governor George Wallace for his virulent racism. She did not condemn the nasty, degenerate, vicious Dixiecrats.
You get the picture. Ms. Webb’s article is filled with filthy, destructive anti-communism which has always been a knife in the heart of the working class.
Let’s look at how Ms. Webb’s article measures up to Lenin’s 21 conditions (previously posted on this blog).
Lenin maintained that the political work of the party should have a “really communist character” and should be devoted to the cause of the proletariat. He stated “in the columns of the press, at public meetings, in the trades unions, and the cooperatives-wherever the members of the Communist International can gain admittance-it is necessary to brand not only the bourgeoisie but also its helpers, the reformists of every shade, systematically and pitilessly.” Ms. Webb obviously violates this condition. She seems to want to do away with the CPUSA and instead support a progressive candidate of the Democratic Party. Bernie Sanders apparently wants to reform capitalism to make it more comfortable for some sectors of the population in the USA. This is not a bad thing, but it is hardly the only thing that needs to be done. No one knows whether Sen. Sanders has any chance of attaining state power, and if he does, whether he will use that power in the interest of the working class. He is certainly not a communist or socialist.
Lenin goes on “Every organization that wishes to affiliate to the Communist International must regularly and methodically remove reformists and centrists from every responsible post in the labor movement (party organizations, editorial boards, trades unions, parliamentary factions, cooperatives, local government) and replace them with tested communists, without worrying unduly about the fact that, particularly at first, ordinary workers from the masses will be replacing ‘experienced’ opportunists.”
Ms. Webb advocates elevating a reformist, centrist opportunist, Bernie Sanders, to the highest office of the land.
Lenin discusses the class struggle but Ms. Webb seems to think that the class struggle is irrelevant to working people.
Lenin discusses the role of the Communist Party in working to prevent new imperialist wars. Apparently, Ms. Webb must believe that imperialism is also irrelevant.
Lenin advocates the elimination of petty bourgeois elements within the party. Ms. Webb embraces not only petty bourgeois, but fully bourgeois elements.
Lenin clearly states “all those parties that wish to belong to the Communist International must change their names. Every party that wishes to belong to the Communist International must bear the name Communist Party of this or that country.” He goes on “The Communist international has declared war on the whole bourgeois world and on all yellow social Democratic parties. The difference between the Communist Parties and the old official ‘social Democratic’ or ‘socialist’ parties that have betrayed the banner of the working class must be clear to every simple toiler.” Again, Ms. Webb extols the virtues of the social Democrats while damning socialists and communists.
Lenin wrote “those party members who fundamentally reject the conditions and theses laid down by the Communist International are to be expelled from the party. Ms. Webb and her partners in crime, Mr. Webb, Ms. Mora and Mr. Bachtell have worked diligently to expel any members of the party who have expressed opposition to collaboration with the social Democrats.
On January 29, 2016, Sam Webb, former chairman of the CPUSA, and his hand-picked puppet, John Bachtell, the current chairman of the CPUSA, launched two articles simultaneously. These articles have been reproduced on this blog in their entirety in an effort to promote public discussion. Webb’s article is entitled “Bernie or Bust”. As background information, it is important to know that Mr. Webb has advocated publicly abandoning the use of the words “communist” or “Leninist.”
The thrust of his article is to maintain that the only viable strategy of people on the left is to fight the ultra right. His concept of the ultra right equates to members of the Republican Party. He maintains that if Sen. Bernie Sanders does not prevail in his effort to be the Democratic Party nominee for president, people on the left, particularly communists, should fall in lockstep with Hillary Clinton or anyone else that the DNC chooses to anoint. Presumably, if the DNC could resurrect George Wallace and nominate him for president, by Webb’s reckoning, communists should throw all their support behind him.
Webb argues that Hillary Clinton is a far superior candidate than any of the Republican contenders. He allows that Clinton’s foreign policy would most likely be “more aggressive and military-inclined then Obama’s.”
Mr. Webb’s convoluted, contradictory thinking is exemplified in this paragraph: “In sharp contrast to her Republican adversaries, Hillary has a democratic sensibility and the commitment, even if hemmed in by her centrist politics and class leanings. She may not want to break up banks too big to fail, or rein in US military presence and activity worldwide, or embrace single-payer health care (arguably for good reasons), but she will fight for the full range of democratic rights-collective bargaining rights, wage rights, job rights, women’s rights, civil rights, gay rights, voting rights, immigrant rights, and, not least, health rights-as well as defend the integrity of democratic structures, governance, and traditions.
Que contrar, Mr. Webb. It is well known that the Clintons have fought the unions, failed to support the employee free choice act, and as you have cited, opposed single-payer health care. However, even if a hypothetical President Clinton II took office, if she led the USA in further and more intense military provocation of Russia, and China, all humans on the planet could be transformed into cockroach food. As Pete Seeger sang “we can all be cremated equally.” After mass cremation, all of the above reforms become moot issues.
Mr. Webb does not seem to recall that former Secretary of State Clinton committed international war crimes when she presided over the destruction of a sovereign state, Libya, and the barbarous assassination of its leader, Moammar Qaddafi. He doesn’t seem to recall that Hillary Clinton’s husband, former Pres. Bill Clinton (who would return to the White House if his wife is elected president) presided over the destruction of the sovereign state of Yugoslavia and the persecution of its leaders. He does not recognize that this set the stage for George W. Bush to preside over the destruction of the sovereign nation of Iraq and the barbarous assassination of its leader, Saddam Hussein.
He only recognizes the extreme right elements within the Republican Party. He turns blind eyes and ears to the extreme right elements within the Democratic Party.
Again, Mr. Webb, like Ms. Webb, violates Lenin’s conditions by denigrating the Communist Party and touting Social Democrats and reformists while working tirelessly to liquidate the CPUSA. One of the tactics Mr. Webb has employed was to elevate his favorite henchman, John Bachtell to the position of chairman of the CPUSA.
It is no coincidence that Mr. Bachtell posted his article “Taking a sober look at the 2016 election” on the CPUSA website on the same day that Mr. Webb posted his article on his own personal blog. Both articles make reference to “Bernie or Bust.”
Mr. Bachtell apes the Webb line of “defeat the extreme right” which translates into support for the Democratic Party candidates, no matter how reactionary they may be. Much of the article is extremely poorly written with grammatical errors that would make anyone blush. His sentences don’t have any logical cohesion. They are presented in a staccato fashion which is highly confusing and raises party obfuscation to a new level.
Bachtell writes “We have to continue to emphasize the issues, promoting the best of both Sanders and Clinton, especially the most advanced positions. For example, there is growing discussion among the candidates about a financial transaction tax on Wall Street.” Bachtell does not seem to think that the class struggle is an issue worth discussing. Imperialism, socialism, and/or Leninism are not on the table for discussion either. However, the class struggle, and imperialism/fascism are the evils which plague the working class. Marxism Leninism and socialism are the tools which historically have been most effective in fighting the evils mentioned above.
Bachtell fecklessly quotes the New York Times and other sources of the bourgeois media and continues to confuse these voices of the bourgeoisie with the voices of the working people.
Bachtell talks about building a grand coalition to defeat the ultra right. Unfortunately, his predecessor, Sam Webb, has been very successful in dismantling and almost liquidating the party. It would be interesting to know what the party has done over the last 10 years to build any coalitions. The only coalitions that the party seems capable of building is a convergence of various sources of hot air. They also have been successful in infusing reality with a heavy dose of fantasy about their own importance.
Again, Bachtell follows in Webb’s footsteps and violates Lenin’s conditions in all regards.
On this eve of the Iowa primary and caucuses, is there any hope that the working class will inch towards the achievement of state power in the coming election cycle in the USA? Lenin said bourgeois elections do not solve anything. The great CPUSA chairperson, Gus Hall, urged communists that choose to engage in electoral struggle to “Aim to win.” When he said that, the CPUSA fielded candidates for various electoral offices around the country with little success. It is likely that he would be horrified at the state of the CPUSA today. Communists and socialists have been reduced to the position of deluding themselves into thinking that if a Democrat wins office, it is a victory for the working class. On the contrary, some might argue that support of bourgeois candidates is “Aiming to lose.”
The choices we must make are disgusting at best. It is like being forced to make a decision whether to drink poison and die or drink castor oil and get sick. The reality is that it is better to get sick and recover rather than to die and be gone forever.
Mr. Bachtell and Mr. Webb seem to think that there is no danger of fascism in the USA. Some might argue that it is already here. Much of Pres. Obama’s foreign policy might be characterized as fascist. His failure to support working people on many levels is not antithetical to fascism. The same can be said of both Sen. Sanders’ and former Secretary of State Clinton’s platforms. Sen. Sanders is clearly more progressive on more issues than former Secretary of State Clinton.
Will working people decide to drink castor oil or drain the poison? We will know more tomorrow. For sure, the class struggle will be very intense in the coming years.
Vol. CXIX, No. 3 Southwestern Historical Quarterly January 2016
Klansmen, Communists, and Civil Liberties
in Dallas, 1931
By Dick J. Reavis*
* Dick J. Reavis is a retired Texas journalist and author, a member of the Texas Institute of Letters, and
a former professor at North Carolina State University.
About 8:20 p.m. on the night of Wednesday, March 4, 1931,
three Dallas men—an attorney and two Communist clients—were
kidnapped at gunpoint as they emerged from the Dallas jail, located
in the city hall. Even though their abductors, fourteen men in four
cars, wore neither robes nor hoods, they were presumed to be members
of the Ku Klux Klan. The controversies that ensued over the next few
weeks provide a good example of how racism in the Jim Crow era helped
blind many white Dallasites to gross violations of civil liberties. The abduction
was far from a perfect crime. Because it was staged on the steps of
the jail and coincided with the unannounced release of the Reds, police
complicity was suspected. And in taking attorney George Clifton Edwards
the kidnappers snatched a man whose disappearance was bound to be
Edwards, then in his mid-fifties, was as much a pillar of his community
as any man of his opinions could have been. Most civic leaders knew
his background because they read about him in newspapers two or three
times a year. He had grown up in Dallas, the son of a prominent attorney,
earned a master’s degree from Harvard, studied for the Episcopal ministry,
then changed his mind and dedicated himself to teaching. He founded
a night school for textile workers in South Dallas, taught Latin and
algebra in the public schools, served as both a football coach and a debate
coach, and became the principal of Oak Cliff High School. In 1906 he
had been the gubernatorial candidate of the Socialist Party, and a year
later he was elected to the commission that wrote the Dallas city charter.
After that, Edwards became a lawyer. He made his debut as a criminalcourts
barrister in a trial that went badly awry on March 3, 1910. Edwards
had been appointed to defend Allen Brooks, an elderly and demented
African American who a week earlier had been accused of raping a threeyear-
old white girl. As Edwards was interviewing his client in a vacant jury
room on the second floor of the county courthouse, some 500 men from
a crowd outside stormed past sheriff’s officers, broke into the jury room,
put a rope around the defendant’s neck, and pushed him out of a window.
Brooks landed on his head, eyewitnesses reported, “with a thud that could
be heard above the shouting of the mob.” The crowd then dragged him
several blocks to a telephone pole near the Elks’ Arch, which stood on
Akard Street, where someone hoisted his corpse for all to behold. In later
reminiscences about the affair, Edwards observed that “the Court House
is directly across the street from the Sheriff’s office, and the ‘Elks’ Arch’
less than a block from the then Dallas Police headquarters. The sheriff’s
office and the police could not have been unaware of the whole business
but not one officer did one thing.” His conclusion no doubt colored his
handling of the 1931 abduction.
Not without misgivings, Edwards had undertaken the defense of the
two Reds only days before. “I am not a Communist. I regard the Communists
as a misguided and ignorant and almost foolish set of doctrinaires,”
he said at the time.4 His clients were not natives of Dallas or men of any
distinction. Although both, like him, were white, they were newcomers
who in a month’s time had become infamous as troublemakers.
We cannot be sure who they were. In those days, before most Americans
drove cars, before the Social Security system, and before the national
security state, people could assume identities almost as easily as they
could adopt dogs. By the thousands, immigrants had assumed Anglicized
names—and sometimes, entirely new names—and members of the Communist
Party, especially those who were on the organization’s payrolls in
the South, frequently adopted what were called “Party names.”
Charles J. Coder, age thirty or perhaps thirty-four, sometimes said that
he was from Robertson County, Texas, had been a farmer, and was a veteran
of the Thirty-eighth infantry. He told comrades in San Antonio that
he was from Waco, in McLennan County. But neither census nor military
records bear out any of his claims.5 According to files of the Communist
Party’s Central Control Commission—the best available records for him—
Coder, a Texan, had joined the Party under the name Carl Miller during
the fall of 1930 in Philadelphia. He had quickly “gained some confidence
when he was arrested at Camden, N.J., together with other comrades,”
but soon in Trenton, the records say, “he got hold of about $75 of organization
funds, which he then took for himself and disappeared.” Miller
was expelled. Reverting to or adopting the name Coder, he afterward
turned up in Kansas City, the Party’s District 10 headquarters.6 Records of
the American Communist Party preserved in Moscow by the Communist
International (Comintern) show that in early 1931 District 10, which ran
south to Laredo, north to Omaha, east to Houston, and west to El Paso,
claimed only 210 members, 50 of them in Texas. Coder and his partner,
Lewis Edward Hurst, had been sent to Dallas to organize a campaign of
recruitment through contacts and colonization; Coder was apparently the
first of the duo to take up residence there.
Comrade Hurst, 21, is more easily traced. He was born in or near Marshall,
Texas, on June 23, 1909. According to the 1930 U.S. Census, he was
working at odd jobs in rural Brown County and was living with his parents
as late as April 3, 1930; his father’s occupation was listed as “general farming.”
The date and place of the census report make it unlikely that Hurst
had been an active Party member for very long.
However, the Communists were not without a Dallas presence, small
though it may have been, even before Coder and Hurst came onto the
scene. On January 17, the Southern Worker, an underground Party weekly
published in Birmingham and Chattanooga, carried an article entitled
“Long Hours, Low Pay,” by “a Worker Correspondent”—a phrase that
often in its pages was a euphemism for Party membership. The brief
article complained that male shellers at the Squirrel Pecan Company in
Dallas were earning some $2.50 per day, and women, only about $1.50.
“Some Mexican girls are walking thirty-five blocks to work and back again
at night,” the article said. According to the Southern Worker’s January 31
edition, Dallas was also home to a branch of the International Workers
Order (IWO). As everywhere, the Party in District 10 sought to promote
its growth not only in its own name, but also through front organizations,
the most important of which in the South were the International Labor
Defense (ILD), the Party’s civil liberties arm; the Trade Union Unity
League (TUUL), its labor organization; and the IWO, a mutual insurance
association that catered to wage workers and small businesses.10
In a letter written to the headquarters of the TUUL on March 4, the
day before the kidnapping, Coder said that he and Hurst began their Dallas
agitation on February 5. In that missive, he listed Harold Sunshine,
64, a Dallas grocery clerk, and an “unemployed” or retired 72-year-old
William Grove—Grive by other accounts—as comrades. Sunshine, a Russian
immigrant, was Party secretary and probably Coder and Hurst’s initial
contact in the city.
These three and perhaps others were also in touch with the city’s “Mexicans”:
the lexicon of Anglo Texans did not distinguish between immigrants
and Mexican Americans in those days. Even by reports in the mainstream
press, at least a few residents of the city’s Little Mexico neighborhood
were early, enthusiastic, and important contacts. The leaflets that
the Party distributed, Coder’s letter said, were printed by “Mexicans.” At
the request of the Mexican consul, who was interested in Communist activity
by his country’s expatriots, Police Chief Claude Trammell interviewed
two employees of a Little Mexico printshop, but released them because
“I determined that they were simply employees and that neither was the
individual whom I really wanted to talk to.” Within days, however, the
Daily Worker, the Party’s official national organ, noted that immigration
agents had deported Rafael Zetnia, a member of the ILD, to Mexico.
The Communist grouplet’s first goal in Dallas was to answer a coast-to coast
call for February 10 demonstrations of the unemployed to demand
cash relief and to collect signatures on a Party-authored proposal, the
Workers Unemployment and Social Insurance Bill, arguably a predecessor
to the measure that in 1935 became the Social Security Act.13
According to the Dallas Times-Herald, on the morning of February
10, Coder for about two hours “addressed a curious crowd of 1,000 idle
negroes and whites from the steps of the city hall.” Only two arrests were
made, that of a bystander and of George Clifton Edwards, whom the
police detained when he intervened on the bystander’s behalf. Coder
went untouched. The turnout had caught the comrades unprepared. In
his letter to the TUUL, Coder reported that “we didn’t even have a copy of
the Daily Worker, let alone Labor Unity”—TUUL’s monthly—“and
application blanks. However, we signed applicants on ordinary writing paper,
backs of envelopes, etc.”
The Dallas Communists were not alone in Texas that day. Comrades
also staged rallies in Houston, San Antonio, and Austin, where, the Morning
News reported, “Ranger Captain Frank A. Hamer”—three years before
his Bonnie and Clyde renown—“confiscated placards reading ‘Equality
for the Negro Masses.’” It also noted that “One speaker urged the opening
of Federal and State buildings at night to give shelter to the unemployed.”
The Dallas Reds probably did not face arrest on February 10 in part
because the authorities did not believe that their advocacy would draw
many supporters. In a February 11 story, the Times-Herald reported that
“Police and Fire Commissioner W. G. Graves announced . . . [that Coder]
may speak as often and as loudly as he pleases for the establishment of a
Soviet Union in America, so long as he doesn’t preach sedition or violation
of the Jim Crow laws and so long as he and his followers don’t become
disorderly or block traffic.” He also proclaimed: that “Our people, white
and black, are native-born Americans who are too fond of the blessings of
liberty as they have been handed down to us from our forefathers to pay
any attention to the misguided efforts of Russian agitators.”
This nonchalant attiude toward communist agitation was likely a result
of Dallas’s relative insulation from the dire economic conditions elsewhere
in the United States. The notion that the nation had entered a depression
of long duration was only dawning in Texas. As historian Donald
Whisenhunt pointed out, “The depression descended so gradually that
most Texans did not realize its existence until it was already serious.”
Although prices for agricultural products had been in a slump since the
end of World War I, as Dorothy De Moss noted in a 1973 collection, “During
the early years of the Great Depression most Dallasites were spared the
severe suffering, hardship, and desperation common to many people in
urban centers of the North and East. Because Dallas had historically keyed
her economic life to trade and service functions, major industrial unemployment,
such as haunted New York, Chicago, and Detroit during these
years, did not occur.” The great East Texas oil boom had begun in October
1930, and city boosters had attracted its financial and supply offices to
Dallas, contributing to a record value of building permits. Unemployment
for 1930 averaged only 4.7 percent. But portents of hard times were evident
by late that year. In December 1930, when the post office post office
advertised for 300 temporary workers to handle its Christmas rush, a thousand
people had applied. By the end of 1931, the construction industry
had suffered a 25 percent decline. Wage cuts hit the building trades in
Despite their indifferent reaction to Coder’s address on February
10, the authorities decided to take action a couple of weeks laters—for
a reason that they calculated would win widespread approval. On the
morning of February 25 policemen under the orders of Commissioner
Graves broke up a gathering of “several hundred unemployed whites and
negroes” who had congregated in front of Fair Park to conduct or watch
a parade or demonstration. The Morning News reported that five would-be
demonstrators were arrested, while the Times-Herald put the number at
nine. Both dailies noted that paddy wagons had made three trips from
the fairgrounds to the jail. It appears that both newspapers reported only
those arrests that resulted in court settings.
Coder, in his March 4 letter to the TUUL, provided a more precise
accounting of the detentions: “Of the 20 arrested,” he wrote, “10 were
Negro (including a Negro woman). These 10 were released at City Hall.
Seven arrested were Mexicans, 2 of whom were released. The other 5 given
$100 fines and sentences suspended.” According to the Morning News,
Judge Calvin Muse, instructing an interpreter for one of the Mexicans,
said, “Tell him we have no objection to his living in Dallas but don’t want
him listening to the wail of a man who is trying to fan his people into a
mob.”23 Three Anglos were also taken into custody, Coder noted in his
letter: comrades Hurst, Sunshine, and Grive. After he posted his letter a
fourth was collared: police arrested Coder at the room where he was staying.
The aborted outing provided the authorities with an opportunity to
announce a new ground rule for demonstrations and a motive for suppressing
them. As the Morning News paraphrased the ground rule, “Police
and Fire Commissioner W.C. Graves does not want to interfere with the
right of free speech, but he doesn’t want the public streets used for Communist
activities. If they want to assemble they can hire a hall,” he said.
The new motive for harrassing the Reds was that they were race-mixers.
Dallas authorities had perhaps fretted, in the years between 1910 and the
onset of World War I, over the racial liberalism of the city’s branch of the
Socialist Party, which had focused on labor issues and electoral campaigns.
But most Dallas labor unions excluded African American members, and
few African Americans were enfranchised. The city had been home to
a chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored
People since 1918, but membership in the organization had dwindled
during the 1920s and by 1931 was dormant. Socialists, in Texas and elsewhere,
had not pictured racial integration as an urgent cause, but with the
Communists, it had become just that for both blacks and whites among
the Party’s faithful.
In 1928 the Comintern, which styled itself as a Bolshevik League of
Nations, had issued a statement to the American party, ordering that “the
Negro problem must be part and parcel of all and every campaign conducted
by the Party,” and calling for “active resistance against lynching,
Jim Crowism, segregation and all other forms of oppression of the Negro
population.” Its edict had been followed by a campaign of internal education,
show trials, and purges of dissenting and recalcitrant comrades, and
by the inauguration, in early 1929, of efforts to organize the South. Unlike
members of the less-disciplined Socialist Party, Coder and Hurst had little
room to ignore the Communist Party’s national stance. Challenging white
supremacy was integral to their task.
When Dallas officials used Communist interracialism as a pretext for
repression, the press had no difficulty following suit. The Morning News
frequenty showed its bias in headlines of the era like “Black Mammy’s
Neighbors Jubilant as Oil Enriches Her,” and a Times-Herald story about
an African American querying a police officer on the whereabouts of a
stolen car put his conversation in dialect: “Cap I’se suttenly sorry to bother
you so much, but las’ nite I dreamed you had found my cah. Is yo?” Both
newspapers closed their stories about the February 25 arrests with paragraphs
citing police seizure of anti-segregation literature. “Lewis Hurst,
who claimed to be the secretary of the Texas communists was arrested first
when officers found him distributing circulars advocating race equality
and abolition of ‘Jim Crow’ and negro segregation laws,” the Times-Herald
explained. The Morning News spelled-out the lawmen’s fears: “Sergeant D. Garrison said that the defendants were urging ‘Abolition of Jim Crow
laws . . . and ‘of all laws which disenfranchise the negroes, abolition of laws
forbidding intermarriage of persons of different races and preventing
negro children or youths from attending general public schools or universities.’”
Reviewing the situation several weeks later, the New York Times,
which covered the affair in half a dozen back-page articles, editorialized
that “when Coder and Hurst mentioned racial equality, their troubles in
this community began.”
According to a story in the Daily Worker and to grand jury testimony,
Coder had told comrades from San Antonio and El Paso that on February
28—three days after the ill-fated Fair Park rally—he had been kidnapped
by five pistol-toters, presumably Ku Kluxers, then driven fifty miles into
the country, stripped of his clothing, robbed of his cash ($4.50), and
warned to get out of Texas. Distrusting the “bourgeois” criminal justice
system, Coder had not reported the event to the police.30
Unlike the Communist Party, its tormentor, the Ku Klux Klan, had
an extensive history in Dallas. The lapsed Reconstruction-era organization
began a revival in Georgia following the release of filmmaker D. W.
Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation in 1915. The Klan spread from Atlanta across
the South and Midwest, reaching Houston in 1920. Within a year, in the
words of historian Charles C. Alexander, “Dallas was the star Klan city”;
its klaverns claimed some 13,000 members. The Dallas Klan was arguably
the largest in the nation, and certainly the leader in per-capita numbers.31
Local klaverns conducted some five dozen floggings, mostly of whites,
in South Dallas river bottoms and at a clearing in the countryside near
Hutchins that apparently doubled as an after-hours hangout for the
Realm’s more visceral members. Dallas’s downtown district hosted nighttime
parades of white-robed members, male and female, and in October
1923, the city drew some 75,000 Ku Kluxers and their family members to
the Fair Park for “Ku Klux Klan Day.” So prominent was the city in Klan
affairs that in 1922, a Dallas dentist who was a former city Cyclops and
Great Titan was elected Imperial Wizard of the national organization.32
But the most important legacy of the Klan was its entry into electoral
contests. Candidates it endorsed swept the Democratic primary and
November elections—then largely a second thought—in 1922, and in
1923, Ku Kluxers captured city hall, too. They met with similar success
2016 Klansmen, Communists, and Civil Liberties in Dallas, 1931 263
in Fort Worth, Wichita Falls, and other Texas locales. Alexander’s 1965
work, The Ku Klux Klan in the Southwest, speculates that “the order probably
had a majority in the house of representatives of the 38th Texas Legislature,
which met in January of 1923.” The lasting result of the Klan’s brief
electoral success in Dallas County was that it seeded members in police
forces and judicial bureaucracies.
During its ascent, the Klan twice raised its hood, providing a peek into
the mysteries behind its usual anonymity. In a 1921 recruitment attempt,
an Atlanta Klan official mailed former Dallas mayor Ben Cabell a carbon
copy of a document listing the initials and surnames of 106 Dallas Ku-
Kluxer policemen. The Dallas police force would not hire its first African
American patrolman until World War II had ended, and in 1930 at least
forty-six of the former Klan cops were on the still lily-white force, including
two as captains and eight as detectives. Either for internal purposes
or for distribution during the 1922 elections, the Invisible Empire also
printed a handbill listing thirteen members of the group’s executive committee,
and a “Steering Committee of 100,” which included the county’s
Democratic Party chairman, the sheriff, and a district judge. Lewis Turley,
police commissioner at the time, was listed in both categories.35
Although a few promiment ministers and businessmen praised the
KKK’s rise, “a revived Klan threatened Dallas’ image as a forward-thinking,
cosmopolitan city—ripe for eastern investment capital—and alarmed
many of the moderate business leaders,” historian Patricia Evridge Hill
has pointed out. In 1922, opponents formed the Dallas County Citizens
League to nominate and field anti-Klan candidates, who eventually prevailed.
Klan rivalries in state elections disunified the Texas Empire, and
by 1925, financial scandals—and a sensational rape by an Indiana Klan
leader—had besmirched the group’s public image. Dallas historian Darwin
Payne, whose chronology of the rise and fall of the city’s Klan is the
most thorough to date, found that by 1926 Realm membership in the city
had fallen by 90 percent. Dropping out from an organization speaks to
its functioning, but does not testify to disillusionment with its aims: Dallas
became a city of Klan fellow-travelers, while about a thousand stalwart Ku
Kluxers hung on, waiting for another revival.
The Klan came out of the shadows on March 3, the day before Coder and Hurst disappeared. That morning passersby in East Dallas found
handbills someone had nailed to telephone poles overnight. The bulletins
bore the caption “White men, What are you going to do about it?” and carried
the name of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
The following afternoon, Coder and Hurst were rounded up and
hauled to jail again. A March 5 Times-Herald story titled “Red Agitators Are
Beaten Up In Dallas Jail” detailed the event. Apparently written on information
supplied by police and fellow prisoners, it reported:
Coder was arrested Wednesday afternoon by Policeman Paul Adair while handing
out literature in the negro quarter at Elm street and Central avenue, and sent to
jail. A few minutes after being locked up he was attacked and beaten by H. Holland,
another prisoner, when the two got into an argument over their ideas of
intermarriage of whites and negroes. . . . Holland was released shortly after the
fight when arresting officers completed an investigation of a case in which he was
supposed to have been involved and it was found that he had no connection with
A few hours later, “Hurst was arrested . . . at Elm and Akard streets. When
he arrived at the jail he had some of the Party’s anti-racist literature under
his shirt. One of the other prisoners found out and a fight started. Hurst
was roughly handled when he argued his views on racial equality and
intermarriage,” the article stated. “Coder and Hurst will be given a chance
to leave town,” the article concluded, “upon promises of refraining from
attempting to hold public gatherings.”
The offer to exile the two Reds was perhaps in keeping with a Dallas
tradition of dealing with racial dissidents dating to 1859, when two Methodist
ministers, Solomon McKinney and Parson Blount, were jailed for
abolitionism and told to exit the region. In White Metropolis, Dallas historian
Michael Phillips noted that when the pair “mysteriously disappeared
from jail, the Herald”—an early-day Dallas weekly—“suggested that this
happened through the aid of ‘the Prince of Darkness’ or perhaps ‘the
assistance of outside pressure.’”
About 6:00 p.m. on the day of the beatings, George Clifton Edwards,
perhaps conscious of himself as the era’s Prince of Darkness, upon reading
that his clients faced peril in the hoosegow, paid a visit to their cells.
He found them in the bruised and battered condition that the Times-Herald
had described and proposed that they be released, as the authorities
had offered, on the condition that they leave town. He then went home
and about an hour later telephoned the jail to learn that his request had
been granted. About 8:00 p.m. he presented himself at its booking desk,
and after a short delay, he and the Communists walked up the stairs that
linked the booking desk, in the basement, to the sidewalk on Harwood
Street. Then they disappeared.
Edwards got off lucky. His kidnappers drove east on Main Street, turned
right to Fair Park, then headed south. On the edge of town, near a landmark
of the day, the Wig-Wam Tourist Camp, they untied him and put
him out of the car. As the rest of the Klan convoy passed, he spied Hurst
through the rear window of one of its vehicles.42 But he made no report
to the police because, like Coder, he did not trust them. Instead, the following
morning, hoping to involve a higher power, he told his story to a
Dallas federal district attorney.
The release of Edwards may have been serendipitous—but it might also
have been planned. In his 1974 biography of his father, George Clifton
Edwards Jr. wrote: “At one point one of the abductors noticed that Dad
had a Masonic emblem in his buttonhole and asked him what degree.
Dad answered ‘Thirty-second.’ That seemed a satisfactory enough answer.
Shortly afterward the car stopped on a dark piece of country road, and
they put Dad out, telling him to go home and to talk to no one about the
events of the night.” But both the father and son recounted an exchange
with a darker implication. George Jr. had driven his father to the jail, and
according to the elder’s instructions, had parked their car at the front of
the municipal library, just a block away. George Jr. saw three cars parked
across from city hall but did not think anything was unusual because “after
all, we were in downtown Dallas, literally within a stone’s throw of the central
headquarters of the Dallas Police Department.” About half an hour
later he went into the station to see what had become of his dad. A sergeant
at the desk told him, “Don’t worry. Your father will not be hurt.”
This story, of course, implies that the officer knew what was happening on
the outskirts of town.
Although Edwards had yet made no public statement about the event,
news of the kidnapping broke in an exclusive story carried by an early edition
of the city’s third-ranked daily, the afternoon Dallas Dispatch, whose
reportage of the incident is known today only through excerpts in other
publications. Its account was written by longtime Dallas reporter Edmund
Barr and carried a byline, a rare gesture in those days. Barr’s story, quoted
in the Morning News, said:
The Ku Klux Klan came back to life Thursday night when fourteen men, occupying
four large sedans kidnapped C. J. Coder and Lewis Hurst, San Antonio Communists,
when they were released from jail, drove them to a secluded spot south of
Hutchins, beat them with a doubled rope and left them bleeding and tied.
For his story Barr visited the spot where he had been told the beating took
place, at a wooden bridge over Cooke’s Branch Creek about a mile south
of Hutchins. He reported finding footprints and signs “that a struggle had
taken place.”46 But something was missing from Barr’s sensational lines:
he did not name the sources of his information or say whether Coder and
Hurst were dead or alive.
Having gotten no satisfaction from his meeting a day earlier with the
federal district attorney, on Saturday, March 7, Edwards appeared before
the executive committee of the Dallas Bar Association, a written statement
in hand. He explained his circumstances and his suspicions, and
persuaded the group to wire Governor Ross Sterling, asking for a state
investigation. On Monday, Sterling dispatched two Texas Rangers, James
- Huddleston and the legendary Manuel T. “Lone Wolf” Gonzaullas to
Always image-conscious, Dallas leaders were outraged by Sterling’s
move. Mayor J. Waddy Tate telegraphed the governor in protest: “No
doubt you realize the sending of Rangers to our peaceful, law-abiding city
without their being asked for is injurious and a reflection upon our good
city. . . . We respectfully request that you withdraw them at once,” his wire
said. In a show of concern, Sheriff Hal Hood dispatched three deputies to
the bridge that Barr had cited as the scene of the flogging. They returned
saying that they had found only pig tracks.
A grand jury was already in session at the Dallas County courthouse
and on Wednesday, March 11, it began hearing testimony about the
affair. Reporter Edmund Barr was called, but he refused to name his
source. Judge Calvin Muse fined him $100 and jailed him for contempt of
court.50 The following day, Barr, having been instructed by his publisher,
was again brought before the grand jury, and this time he testified: Norman
Register, a sixty-year-old district court clerk, had been his source, he
said. According to the Times-Herald, “Register, well known for his activity
in fraternal and political circles here for many years, is a former cyclops
of the Oak Cliff Klan. That organization still uses as its meeting place an
Oak Cliff building leased to the organization by Mr. Register,” the story
Register was then called to testify. The Morning News drew a poignant
picture of the scene: “Barr assisted Register, who is crippled with rheumatism,
across the street from the criminal court building to the grand
jury quarters in the old courthouse.” Register denied that he had spoken
to Barr for the story, and a few days later so did Owen George, a Dallas
County assistant district attorney with whom Barr said he had confirmed
Register’s report.54 At the end of the day, Police Commissioner Graves
may have summed up the gendarmarie’s attitude. “I don’t think anything
even bordering on what has been reported in the newspapers ever happened,”
However, for several days the grand jury continued to hear from varied
witnesses, including policemen who had been on duty at the jail on the
night of the abduction. A figure who surprisingly came forth was twentyfive-
year-old George Papcun, whom both the Morning News and Times-Herald
described with the same pair of words: “bushy-haired.”
Correspondence from the files of the Party’s District 10 office shows
that Papcun, an organizer for the TUUL, was at the time a fellow traveler,
not a comrade; he had been expelled by a northeastern district in 1930.
Probably because he was a miner, the TUUL had stationed him in El Paso
as an organizer. It dispatched him to Dallas a few days after the Edwards-
Coder-Hurst kidnapping to manage publicity and to raise protests, he
said. He was joined there by a correspondent for the Daily Worker, Sam
Littcin, as the grand jury learned when it subpoenaed telegrams from the
city’s Western Union and Postal Telegraph agencies.
On the afternoon of March 11, Littcin had sent a dispatch to the
Worker alleging that Coder and Hurst were “brutally murdered by a mob
which kidnapped them Thursday night. One arrest made.” But Littcin’s
telegram, and another by Papcun, did not name the arrestee, nor reveal
sources for those claims. Nevertheless, the next day the Worker carried a
banner-headline story that took their reports as gospel, “Coder and Hurst
Brutally Murdered By Lynch Mob.”
Three days later the Worker broke news of a very different kind: Coder
and Hurst, it said, were in Kansas City. Based on information from District
10 Party organizer Paul Cline, the newspaper said that the pair arrived
the day before, riding a freight train. About dawn on the morning of their
kidnapping, it claimed, African American farmers had run across the two,
tied and lying in a field, delirious. The farmers had taken them to their
nearby home and for several days nursed them back to health.
On Saturday morning, March 14, three Dallas men—pilot Harry Fowler,
Times-Herald city editor E. K. Mead, and Dallas County district attorney
William McCraw—left the city in an enclosed five-seat Bellanca monoplane
loaned to them by Dallas stockbroker Royal A. Ferris Jr. They were
bound for Kansas City. Upon their arrival about four hours later, they
made their way to the District 10 offices, where under Cline’s supervision,
they interviewed Coder and Hurst. A photo taken during the Kansas
City sitting does not show trauma on the face of either man. “Both of
them look and act like Texas country boys of the tenant farmer type,”
Mead wrote in a column upon his return. According to him, Coder was
“young and his thin, sharp face, topped with a busy crop of blond hair,
. . . lacks all marks of high intelligence.” This description coincided with
an earlier remark by lawyer Edwards, who said that Hurst was a “poor, frail
and rather dull country boy who had no friends” and with that of Richard
Potts, editor of an idosyncrtic Dallas magazine, The Common Herd, who had
spoken at the Red’s first rally. Hurst would later charge that the Dallas
trio had gained entry by claiming that they were reporters. During their
chat, Coder told his interviewers that when he and Hurst were brought to
the jail’s booking desk on the night of March 5, a man who had apparently
been waiting for them to appear had rushed outside to signal the kidnapping
crew. He also said that in Hutchins, one of his captors boasted that
“the Klan begins where the law ends.”
According to Hurst, only after Cline badgered McCraw into confessing
his identity did the district attorney propose the deal that provided
speculation in the newspapers for days. He asked the two Communists
to return with his party and to testify before the grand jury. When Coder
and Hurst frowned at his proposal, he offered to buy them train tickets.
Stories subsequently published about the flight and the interview drilled
into details: McCraw offered the two Reds protection by Dallas police and
sheriff’s officers, and when they snubbed that, showed them a telegram
from Governor Sterling’s office, promising that, if they liked, Texas Rangers
would meet them at the state line. Hesitant to make any decision, they
telephoned Edwards, who said that he did not trust the local authorities
or believe that the Rangers could guarantee the pair’s safety in Dallas.
The Bellanca returned to Dallas without them, carrying a half-humbled
McCraw. “I do not believe those men were flogged, although there seems
to be little doubt that there was a kidnapping,” he said. On the day when
stories about the Kansas City interview appeared in the Dallas papers, the
Daily Worker also published an exclusive, a statement signed by Coder and
Hurst, describing their beatings in jail, their abduction, and their flogging.
Its details largely matched Barr’s March 6 report.
George Edwards had been absent from Dallas trying a case in Eastland.
But on Monday, after he went before the grand jury to give an account
of his kidnapping, Dallas officials and the press began speculating about
pledges from the two Communists to return—not to testify, the two said,
but to stage another demonstration. Police Commissioner Graves repeated
his injunction against street protests, and over the next few days, Cline
and the Daily Worker made a series of statements about the two Texans’
plans. They said that Coder and Hurst would hitchhike, that they would
come back by freight, that they would take a passenger train, and that
Hurst was already en route by auto. But neither man showed.
On the eve of the last grand jury session two weeks later, Edwards
received a telephone call from Hurst, who said that he was in Dallas.
According to a subseqent report by Common Herd editor Potts, Hurst also
contacted him and dropped by the publication’s office the next morning.
He afterward went to Edwards’s office, bringing a typewritten letter he
said he wanted to mail to the press. Edwards, concerned for his client’s
safety, promptly drove Hurst to Fort Worth, where, after Hurst dropped
his missive in a letterbox, Edwards left him on the streets. The lawyer
would later report that neither he nor Hurst were aware that about the
same hour, the grand jury released its finding:
It is our conclusion that no physical violence was done to any of the parties. As to
the abduction, it appears from the testimony and subsequent developments that it
was done by the Communists themselves for publicity purposes. . . . The presence
of agitators of this type and the presentation of their doctrines is destructive to the
social and proper interest of this country.
United Press International, to which Hurst mailed his statement, later
told the Times-Herald that the opening line of the letter was “The grand
jury investigation turned out just the way I expected it to be, a well-planned
whitewashing scheme.” The following week a Morning News editorial belatedly
expressed a similar conclusion: “The News takes it as an undisputed
fact that free speech in Dallas depends in large part upon whether the
character of the speech is pleasing to the economic and political palate of
the officials of Dallas.”
Editorialists at the News probably knew what Hurst only surmised, that
grand juries in those days were blue-ribbon panels stacked against people
like him. None of the twelve men who sat on the grand jury were wage
earners, nor were any of them members of the minorities to which the
Communist made special appeals. Among them were a cotton broker,
an investment broker, and J. B. Wilson, a man sometimes described in
the area press with the words “Dallas capitalist.” Also on the panel were
a county commission clerk and a police captain who was one of the men
named on the Klan’s 1922 list of police for members.
The grand jury’s mention of “publicity” may have been a reference to
a March statement by Commissioner Graves that “the whole matter is a
hoax, framed as a double-barreled publicity stunt to promote sympathy
for the Communists and Edwards’s candidacy for the City Council.”
Although it is doubtful that his brief association with the Communists
provided the kind of publicity Edwards wanted, he indeed had filed for a
seat on the council. On April 9, when ballots were canvassed, he came in
second among three candidates, with only 7 percent of the vote.
Charles J. Coder remained in Missouri. In October 1931, in the company
of other Communists, he was arrested and sentenced to a year in jail.
But in early 1932 he was sent to Arkansas, where he headed the Party’s
campaign to put candidates on that state’s ballots. Central Control Commission
records indicate that he was restored to full Party membership
in 1932, an indication that during his weeks as the Party’s Dallas heromartyr,
his status with the organization had been irregular. His disappearance
from Party and public records thereafter suggests that the former
Carl Miller adopted yet another name—or that was never been Coder nor
Miller, but someone else.
By James Thompson
Dave Adkinson writes in his critical analysis of the Houston CP club:
“If those you criticise are as malicious as you say the i wonder why i cant find anything on the web where “they” sling mud at you and your former club.”
We applaud Mr. Adkinson’s efforts to provide some critical analysis of our club, but his arguments fall a bit short. Here is a posting from our Texas district leadership about our website which was posted on 11/28/11. The link is: http://tx.cpusa.org/houstonweb.htm .
We recently received the following statement from CPUSA leadership:
Statement on Houston Phony Web Site
The web page calling itself the Houston Communist Party (http://houstoncommunistparty.com/ ) and the associated Facebook page and Twitter feed are not affiliated with the Communist Party USA (CPUSA). The person or persons behind the web site know full well that the site does not reflect the views and positions of our party. By undemocratically and falsely identifying the site as affiliated with the CPUSA they are deliberately sowing confusion and misinformation.
The Texas Communist Party web site at (http://tx.cpusa.org/ ) is a web site of the CPUSA that is endorsed and supported by the party membership in Texas and the National Committee of the CPUSA.
National Board CPUSA
It should be explained that the reason Houston put up its own website was that the Texas District leadership repeatedly refused to send us the names of people from Houston who contacted the national website. I spoke directly to Sam Webb, Jarvis Tyner and many others and made the simple request that the names of people who contacted the national website or state website from Houston be provided to us so that we could attempt to recruit them into our club. This was at a time when I was writing many articles for the PWW and PW. At this time, I was also invited to and was attending party conferences at various locations around the country to include the conference on African American equality in St. Louis, Missouri, and regional conferences in El Paso, Texas and Oakland, California. I spoke to Sam Webb at the meeting in Oakland and to Jarvis Tyner at the march on Wall Street in NYC. I also made up the slogans for the signs used in the march on Wall Street as requested by Libero della Piana. I was also a delegate to the 2005 convention in Chicago and wrote the front page article for the PWW about the CPUSA support of the strike against the Congress Hotel in Chicago. We elected a delegate from Houston to the 2008 CPUSA convention. This individual is an accomplished journalist and could have put various party leaders on the Pacifica network. In fact, I suggested this to leadership and it was ignored.
The reason for putting up the website was simple. We wanted people in Houston to be able to contact us.
One of our current members attempted to contact us through the national website and state website within the last year and a half. He was ignored by the national office. When he contacted the state directly, he was told that our club in Houston did not exist. He found us by our website.
When we put up our website, we were told by district leadership in Dallas that we should take it down and that the party should file a lawsuit against us for putting up the website.
I wonder how many people in the party really think that these actions by party leadership represent a real desire to build the party and fully support one of its most active clubs. Instead of expressing appreciation for the hard work of comrades in Houston, leadership has chosen to split and divide our original club and fecklessly attempt to depose its elected leader.
Nevertheless, we continue to survive and thrive. We will continue to fight for the working class no matter what CPUSA leadership does to us. We will not surrender. We will not back down. We will continue to build our club since we believe the Communists will take up their historical role as the vanguard party of the working class. We believe that once again the CPUSA will fight for peace, civil rights and will return to an anti-imperialist stance. We believe the CPUSA will fight once again to enact legislation for working people such as single payer health care or a national health care system and the employee free choice act. We believe the CPUSA can and will fight anti-communist laws and other forms of voter suppression. We believe the CPUSA can and will field candidates for public office on its own ticket. We believe the CPUSA can and will be a fully democratic organization and operate from the bottom up rather than the top down.
By a CPC member
This letter was depressing to read. How did she expect anyone to join the CPUSA after Webb and his crew started dismantling the party, ceased running candidates, liquidated the PW and became cheerleaders for the Democrats. And how about all the loyal comrades they expelled or pushed out. Even if the party does change its name, people will still know, or find out that it is the old CP. The media will certainly let people know that. And this new organization she wants to launch, will it only function at election time to back the democrats ?