Ask a communist anything. No, really!

 
Ask a communist anything.  No, really!

 

Earlier this month, the editors of the Reddit forum r/politics invited CPUSA to do an “Ask Me Anything,” where users interact in real time.  Questions and comments ranged from celebrations of CPUSA as an American institution (“Is it true you all know all four stanzas of the Star-Spangled Banner?”) to acknowledgements of the anti-communism that remains a tool of the ruling class (“I’m a teacher… I sincerely wish you guys luck educating the public when we’re literally not allowed to say anything positive about it in school.”)  Here are some of our answers, along with a few questions we didn’t get to answer.

 

How do you prevent communist parties from devolving into the autocratic regimes they always have throughout history? It was my understanding that human nature doesn’t allow true communism to exist.

Joe Sims responds:

This is an important issue. Glad you raised it. First, we think that it’s important to recognize that socialism was first attempted in countries that did not have developed democratic institutions and civil society. That coupled with the challenges of war and intervention contributed to the lack of democracy which played a big role in the crimes during the Stalin period and socialism’s collapse.

It’s our view that you can’t have real socialism without democracy as defined by working class and people actually having control over decision making both in the economy and in the state.

For us, that means a socialist government must be a multi-party state. The cpusa.org supports what we call “Bill of Rights of Socialism,” a socialism that has at its center working class power and the bill of rights.

This is particularly true given the rise of the internet and social networks. The 24/7 news stream and the flow of information demands that the socialist and communist parties take a whole new approach to what this means in terms of governance and democracy. For us it means an emphasis on people’s power from below in decision-making, a free press and assembly, and as indicated above working class coalition of political parties that direct the state.

We do not believe in an immutable human nature that is incompatible with socialism.

 

Can you guys talk about the stance the Party has on race, misogyny, and class? It seems like many leftists want to abandon so-called “identity politics” for a pure class approach, but the history of the Party seems to suggest a different position. Thank you.

Chauncey Robinson responds:

 The CPUSA makes it a priority to point out that the fight against racism and sexism are KEY to the fight of the working class. It’s not separate and apart or some side issues that will be dealt with “after the revolution” as some might try to push for. The working class is constantly divided, purposefully by the capitalist class, by race, gender, sexuality, and so on. In order to utilize the maximum strength of working people these divisions HAVE to be fought against. And they are not fought against by telling those that are super exploited under capitalism (such as African Americans, women, immigrants, and so on) that they just need to put those grievances aside and focus on class.

First off, in doing that, we take away the voice of the marginalized and say their problems just aren’t as important to the “bigger picture” of class. This is a wrong move. A move like that does not grow our organization or the left, but further alienates us from the growing leadership of African Americans, women, immigrants, and so on who are leading the charge in many growing movements today. By acknowledging and fighting against the exploitation they face under this system we STRENGTHEN our fight as a whole. By dismissing those fights we only do the working class as whole a disservice and don’t move any closer to collective strength and unity.

Women are half of the population. How do we not prioritize their fight for control over their own bodies and equal pay? African Americans have been statistically proven to being one of the biggest supporters and advocates of unions. How do we not prioritize the fights against the continued cruel reality of racism in the U.S.?

 

If we don’t seek to prioritize the empowerment of what can be some of our strongest fighters in the seeking working class liberation then we’ve already lost the battle. Why not just become democrats? 3rd parties seem like a monumental waste of time to me particularly given that both parties aren’t equally bad (republicans are much MUCH worse) AND that 3rd parties would at best just split a liberal base allow the worse party (republicans) to make laws.

 Joe Sims responds:

You make some good points. The GOP is much worse, even while both parties subscribe to neoliberal policy – the GOP does with a vengeance. Still both are capitalist parties. Much of the labor movement, women, people of color, LGBTQ etc. operate within the framework of the Democratic Party.

That said, our party is a party of socialism: and our goal is bring about a socialist system in the U.S. We believe that it possible to do so peacefully by participating in the electoral and political process. Achieving this objective requires a political party that makes socialism its goal.

Needless to say, that is not the goal of the Democrats. At the same time we think that achieving socialism can only come about by participating in the day-to-day struggles of our working class and people. That means fighting for reforms, like raising the minimum , preventing climate change, supporting public education, universal healthcare etc. Thus, we share much in common with Democrats and independents (and maybe some confused GOPers) who support these aims. The point is you can’t go it alone. We have to fight together.

It’s going to be tough. And reforming the election laws to allow third parties to participate is key. That said, Bernie showed that there’s still a lot of room to operate within the framework of the Democratic Party. And we support that very much. We think a bit down the road we’ll need a third peoples party that will challenge both the GOP and the Democrats, a party that has defeating the big monopolies as its key objective.

 

It’s often been said that “there is no ethical consumption under capitalism”, that the only real way to avoid harming the laborers and marginalized is to go live off of berries in the forest. How does someone feeling guilty in a capitalist society (me, for instance) stay aware of injustice without self-flagellating?

Scott Hiley responds:

 I once heard someone say, in response to the accusation that buying a certain commodity was unethical, “Listen. If my purchasing decisions could change the world, I’d wouldn’t be a member of the working class.” Injustice and poverty and inequality don’t exist because working class people make poor decisions. They exist because they are engineered and maintained by the capitalist class–so let’s keep the blame where it belongs. That goes for jobs, too. Coal mining is environmentally destructive–but that’s not the miner’s fault, any more that a worker on an assembly line in a Boeing plant is guilty of supporting the arms industry. We do what we have to do to survive–including working for the abolition of capitalism.

Does the communist party believe in working within the current political system to benefit the workers? Also, I’m also from upstate NY. As someone just getting into communism what are more ways to get involved?

Scott Hiley responds: 

CPUSA absolutely believes in working within the current political system to benefit workers. Where else could we work, and what kind of communists would we be if we just sat on the sidelines preaching revolution? The working class is hurting here and now; our planet is being destroyed here and now; racism, sexism, homo- and transphobia happen here and now, and must be addressed under capitalism, even as we’re fighting something better. In fact, it’s in fighting for justice within the current political system that we build the strength to change it.

I’m also in upstate NY! As a communist, I do the same thing I would do as a progressive: attend rallies, write letters to the editor, call my reps, get out the vote, etc. But I also try to find ways to get people talking about politics–not in a preachy way, and not necessarily about who to vote for, but about stuff like jobs, wages, immigration, women’s rights. My area is really conservative, but I’ve actually had some good conversations with people who identify as conservatives, Republicans, etc.

 

I get a sense that the political influence of labor is diminishing in the U.S. and across the globe due to technological displacement. What is the strategy of CPUSA in response to this trend?

Chauncey Robinson responds:

 As we’ve been witnessing, the face of labor is growing and changing—by which I mean what has usually been pushed as the look of union workers and workers in general. We have seen through fights such as the Fight For 15 and a union, immigrant workers rights, and the like, that there are sections emerging in the leadership of these struggles that NEED to be part of the leadership of the labor movement. I’m speaking of Black women, women in general, and peoples of color. Many of which do not reside in jobs that have been known to be union types- such as the service and retail sector. In order for the labor movement to thrive there needs to be an expansion of what a union worker is, and a real push to train women, Black women, and other peoples of color to be leaders in the labor movement. This is because these populations are where the growing numbers of workers are finding themselves. There has to be a campaign to unionize these workers and place them in leadership to have their voice and strengths utilized. Yes technology is displacing people, but workers aren’t going anywhere, they’re still working, just some in different ways, and that collective power is still there as well if utilized. Workers’ best defense against the attacks of capitalism is still unions. There needs to be a fight to strengthen them, and part of that is redefining who resides and leads in them as well. Which I think we’re seeing lately as many unions have begun speaking out more against racism and sexism, and supporting The Fight for 15.

 

My question pertains to your general position on compromise policies like the ones we saw in the lead up to the Affordable Care Act. How does the Communist party view solutions like a public healthcare option, as opposed to a blanket “Medicare for all” approach? Also what role, if any, does the Communist party see in protecting private corporations? Would a president from CPUSA have supported the auto bailout, or FDIC banking protections?

Roberta Wood responds:

 I was not happy with the ACA when it was passed, with all its weaknesses. I would have greatly preferred single payer. By the way, though, single payer isn’t perfect. It does NOT take profit out of health care. I would prefer a socialized health care system, under democratic controls. That being said, the reality is that to change our healthcare system takes an act of Congress. The ACA, bad as it was, only squeaked thru Congress. To get it thru, horrible compromises were made to make pharma and other parts of the for profit medical businesses on board. But in retrospect, ACA with all its weaknesses was a big step forward because it established the principle of universal health care. A more advanced ground from which to struggle. If Obama had held out for the more perfect, single payer, for which a Congressional majority was not achievable, we would now be struggling from a much weaker position. It was that awful alliance with Big Pharma, who got on board for their own greedy reasons, that made the ACA victory possible.

 

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to answer all of the questions people had for us.  Here are some that stimulated our thinking.  Use the comments to let us know how you would respond!

 

What is the CPUSA’s stance on gun control and the second amendment? Despite being a rabid lefty in almost everything else, I oppose ridiculous California-style gun control.

 

What is the Communist Party USA’s stance on religious freedom? If it is different from the Soviet Union’s adoption of atheism, what do you think went wrong?

 

How are you going to make big corporations give up money and power and happily agree to a change as big as [replacing capitalism with socialism]?

 

Do you, or other Communists, experience unfair treatment because of your political beliefs?

Comments

Author
    Joe Sims is co-chairperson of the CPUSA.
Author
    Chauncey K. Robinson believes that writing, in any capacity, should help to reflect the world around us, and be one of the tools to help bring about progressive change. Born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, she has a strong belief in people power and working class strength. As a social media content creator and writer for People's World she seeks to make sure that topics that affect working class people, peoples of color, and women are constantly in the spotlight and part of the discussion.
Author
    Scott Hiley has taught French, literature, history, and philosophy at the high school, college, and post-graduate levels.  A member of CPUSA since 2010, he is active in struggles against austerity and for education justice and labor rights. His articles have appeared in the People's World (US), the Morning Star (UK), and l'Humanité (France). He lives in a rural town in upstate NY.
Author
    Roberta Wood, Secretary-Treasurer of the Communist Party, is a retired journeyman industrial instrument mechanic. A lifelong union activist, she was a founding co-chair of the United Steelworkers District 31 Women's Caucus. She writes on labor issues for peoplesworld.org. A Chicagoan, Roberta is married to Steelworker retiree Scott Marshall. Scott and Roberta have four daughters and seven grandchildren.

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