‘No mandate, no surrender’ from report to the CPUSA National Committee

December 1, 2004

(From report given to CPUSA National Committee, November 20, 2004)


Never in my lifetime have I participated in an election in which the stakes were so high, the opposing sides so clearly defined, the forms and methods of struggle so creative and wide-ranging, and the battle so bitterly contested and so consequential to the lives of billions on our planet. The results werent what we had hoped for, but we should be immensely proud that we were engaged and tireless participants in this monumental struggle.

Members of our Party and the Young Communist League canvassed door-to-door in countless neighborhoods, passed out tens of thousands of campaign leaflets, registered voters, and got out and defended the vote on Election Day not to mention recruited new members, established new clubs and distributed tens of thousands of copies of the Peoples Weekly World, Political Affairs and Dynamic.

While we walked the walk from Maine to California, we take particular pride in our work in the Midwest. Party and YCL members in those states and volunteers from other non-battleground states were among the tens of thousands of people who fought the good fight in this crucial region of the country.

We matched our overriding sense of the urgency of defeating Bush with our practical deeds. To paraphrase Marx, the point isnt simply to interpret the world, but to change it.

To all the members in the Party and YCL who set aside pressing personal and political responsibilities in order to participate in this incredible struggle to defeat Bush, I say thanks on behalf of the National Board. You gave honor to the word communist and earned the Party and YCL the appreciation of thousands of mass activists and leaders around the country.

That we didnt come up a winner is a disappointment, but we remain, much like millions of our brothers and sisters across our beautiful land, unbowed and ready to fight another day, another month, another year, whatever it takes to defeat the right-wing scoundrels who endanger everything that humanity holds dear.

As communists we know that our dreams are not always realized and that struggle doesnt always culminate in victory. But we are also unyielding in our conviction that without struggle there is no progress and that eventually morning will break and bring a new birth of freedom. Were long haulers, not summer soldiers.


At this meeting, our task is to make a strictly sober, objective and many-sided appraisal of the 2004 election and its meaning for class and democratic struggles ahead. We cant allow our revolutionary mood and temper to substitute for analyzing in a clear-eyed way the complex, contradictory, and many-layered nature of the elections and the post-election period.

Nor can we allow the near-endless stream of post-election analysis to leave our heads swimming. Dont get me wrong, analyses and statistical data should be studied, but sometimes the shear volume of spin and data is overwhelming.

At some point, we have to make our own assessment. Such an assessment should utilize our Marxist methodology, our own experience on the ground over the past year, and a dose of common sense, in addition to the assessments and polling data of others.

OK, some of you might be saying to yourselves, but why do we need to spend two entire days on this?

The answer is simple: because we want to get it right.

On November 2nd, one phase of struggle with a particular lineup of class and social forces, on a particular terrain and with a particular set of tasks came to a close, and on November 3rd, a new phase of struggle with a different lineup of class and social forces, on a different political terrain, and with a different set of tasks began to unfold.

And we have to understand both phases and then draw the appropriate lessons for the struggle ahead.

Probably we wont agree on everything. In fact, it would be silly to think that we would, given the complexity of the elections, although I suspect that whatever our differences, we wont be miles apart.

In any event, the battle goes on. There were disturbing setbacks and shifts to be sure. But, there were many positive developments as well. We should now examine both sides of this contradictory and interrelated process.


Several months ago most pollsters predicted that the margin of difference between Kerry and Bush would be razor-thin. I cant recall anyone projecting a landslide for either candidate, let alone a major political realignment nationwide.

Guess what? They were more right than wrong.

The outcome wasnt quite razor-thin, but it certainly wasnt a landslide. By historical standards, it was a narrow victory. It didnt remotely approximate the presidential victories in 1964, 1972, or 1984. Nor did it come close to FDRs triumphs in the 1930s, which ushered in a Democratic majority and realigned national politics for decades to come.

Lets look at facts: after nearly 120 million votes were cast, the margin of difference separating the two candidates was a mere 3.5 million 59.4 million for Bush and 55.9 million for Kerry. And had Ohio gone to Kerry, which it nearly did and some think still might, the soul searching and hand wringing would be taking place on the other side. Even in the ‘red states,’ Kerry received 43 percent of the vote and that adds up to millions of voters.

Among the main constituencies of the progressive movement, a clear-cut majority voted for Kerry. Union households voted 68 percent for Kerry in battleground states and 63 percent in non-battleground states. Nearly nine of ten African Americans cast their votes for Kerry. Roughly two of three Latino voters picked Kerry. 55 per cent of Asians voted for Kerry — up considerably from Gores vote in 2000.

Native American Indians heavily supported Kerry. The gender gap continued — despite the systematic efforts of the Bush to campaign to appeal to womens security concerns — with 54 per cent of women in Kerrys column.

Young voters supported Kerry by nearly a ten-point margin over Bush. Over three of four Jewish voters backed Kerry while slightly more than three of five Arab voters did the same.

Gays and lesbians not unexpectedly supported Kerry overwhelmingly. And though no data is available regarding the voting patterns of peace activists, environmentalists, the disabled and other social categories of the peoples movement, it is safe to say that they voted by a large majority for Kerry.

The only disappointments were seniors and farmers, both of whom ended up in Bushs column.

But all and all, the voting breakdown among progressive forces is good news.

At the Congressional level, there was good news too, first and foremost, the historic election of African American Barack Obama and Mexican American Ken Salazar to the Senate. And we should note that Cynthia McKinney reclaimed her seat in the House.

Meanwhile, a bit further down the political chain, the results at the state level were a draw, with the Democrats showing unexpected strength and scoring unexpected victories, including in Southern states and in Montana and Minnesota.


Just as there was no landslide on November 2, neither was there a decisive, far-reaching or qualitative shift of political power from one grouping of class and social forces to another. There was no basic realignment — to say otherwise is to misunderstand what is meant by this concept.

A major political realignment represents a sea change, a rupture, a sharp and definitive break in the disposition of broad political and social forces.

In such a situation, an emerging hegemonic bloc attracts to its side discontented social forces, both active and formerly passive, its ideas become more and more the common-sense wisdom of millions, and political momentum and initiative swings decisively to its side.

When this occurs, the new dominant power bloc is positioned — though this is by no means inevitable — to recast the institutional structures of governance and the power relations at every level of society, either in favor of the exploited and oppressed, or to their disadvantage.

Let me illustrate this with an example from our own history the election victories of FDR in the 1930s. During those years, not only did Roosevelt receive over 60 percent of the vote, not only did the Democrats and other progressive parties gain huge numbers of seats at the expense of the Republicans, and not only did the Democratic Party consolidate its social base among workers, farmers, and immigrants and extend it among new political constituencies, the most notable being the African American people. But added to all of that, Roosevelts victories effected a recasting of the role and structures of government, greatly enlarged the peoples rights and entitlements, and altered the political playing field in the collective bargaining and political arena in favor of the exploited and oppressed.

Measured against Roosevelts triumphs, Bushs victory looks small in comparison. No matter how you slice it (and you can slice it a lot of ways because the outcome was so close), this election didnt fundamentally realign the politics of our country.

Only in the states of the old Confederacy did the Republicans complete a process of realignment that began in the mid-sixties, in part because labor is too weak in that region and in part because the Democratic Party and progressive forces too easily yielded the South to reaction and racism.

I would even go one step further and say that no stable right-center majority crystallized in the course of this election. Such a conclusion strikes me as premature. It overestimates the political solidity of Bushs electoral coalition and ignores the special circumstances the post-9/11 environment in which this election took place.

At the same time, we should not be Pollyanna-ish. The election was undeniably a setback. It rearranges to some degree the political furniture across the country for the time being. It alters the terrain on which labor and its allies fight right-wing reaction. It shifts in a quantitative sense the balance of forces in a rightward direction.

And, it allows the most reactionary, imperialist-minded, racist, anti-labor, anti-people and anti-democratic section of transnational capital to control the federal structures of government for four more years.

The Bush administration is a different kind of regime, which, while operating within the framework of capitalist democracy, does so from a very different point on the political spectrum than did its predecessors.

I would argue that the Bush administration’s outlook and policies constitute a break from earlier administrations. The break is not across the board — continuities do exist, and pointing them out doesnt require a high political IQ. But and this is a big BUT the breaks are so significant and so consequential that this administration merits the characterization of conservative-authoritarian rather than simply bourgeois democratic.

While ideological notions drive the policy choices of every administration, Bush’s positions and program are extreme. And while we dont call it fascist, we can safely predict that the second Bush administration will unhesitatingly set aside democratic rights in favor of state-sanctioned lawlessness and use of force to further its program domestically and internationally.

Thus the grip of the extreme right over the entire federal government should be of great concern to every democratic-minded person, regardless of his or her political persuasion.

This should also inform our strategic and tactical concepts.


Given the right-wing coloration of Bushs administration, how do we explain the fact that more than 59 million people voted for him? There is no simple answer to this question, and it will probably change some as more information becomes available. For now though, I would offer several reasons.

First of all, the Bush campaign and its powerful propaganda apparatus systematically and unrelentingly exploited the deeply-felt anxieties and fears that are traceable to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Sometimes memory of historical events fades overnight, but that cannot be said of those events — that memory is alive and palpable.

While doing door-to-door canvassing in Ashtabula, Ohio, for example, I encountered many people who were concerned about the possibility of another terrorist attack not necessarily against their town, but on our national soil. Rightly or wrongly, people feel vulnerable, and Bush and his propaganda machine mercilessly heightened and exploited these fears — which is not surprising, for they knew that by doing so they could win the election.

Another boost to Bushs campaign was that his image-makers cleverly and systematically cultivated the perception that Republicans are the defenders of family, faith, and life while Democrats are morally lax, without religious or any other values, and contemptuous of the family and tradition.

Of course, you are thinking that the Republicans’ deeds betray their words — and they do. But in politics, perceptions sometimes trump reality. While there is some disagreement over the extent to which cultural issues influenced the elections outcome, it is fair to say that such issues loomed considerably larger than previously, and that the Republicans were the beneficiaries of this.

At the same time, it is wrong to suggest, as quite a few analysts are, that an immense and unbridgeable cultural divide cleaves the nation. There are differences to be sure, but there is also plenty of space for both dialogue and common action on issues of mutual concern, like jobs, social security, health care, education, and the Iraq war.


Another factor that favored Bush was that economic difficulties didnt automatically translate into Democratic Party votes. For some voters, non-material concerns outweighed material ones, while for others, the influence of security concerns kept them in Bushs camp.

Bushs image (perpetuated by a craven media) as a homespun man of faith; a down-to-earth, straight-talking guy who’s willing and able to take decisive action, served him well, and figured into many people’s decisions at the voting booth.

And we all know that the Republican ticket also benefited from the systematic suppression of the vote before and on November 2. The extent of the theft and fraud may never be known, but clearly it was consequential and steeped in racism so pervasive, deliberate, and unconcealed that it harkens back to the worst days of Jim Crow. Targeted by the Republican Party were communities of color and especially the African American people. We join with those who are calling for every vote to be counted as well as demanding a complete overhaul and democratization of the electoral system.

Finally, the Republicans did a better job turning out their constituency, much to the surprise of many on our side. The prevailing assumption was that the higher the turnout, the greater the likelihood of a Democratic victory. But on this as on other matters, the election went against received wisdom. Of the 13 million more votes cast this year over those cast in 2000, 8 million went to Bush and only 5 million to Kerry.

While no single factor accounts for this, part of the explanation is that the Republican Party is politically and organizationally more coherent than the Democratic Party. For nearly two and a half decades, the Republicans worked to popularize consistent themes and an ideological worldview that legitimizes their actions and policies; they penetrated the mass media, including gaining unchallenged dominance over talk radio and Fox News; they trained a group of seasoned political operatives who came of age during the Reagan years; and they nurtured a grassroots constituency in both rural areas and exurban and new suburban communities that is faith-based and ideologically-driven.

The Democratic Party has nothing remotely approaching this apparatus. Perhaps it did in the past, but those days are long gone.


But although a number of factors account for Bushs victory, some loomed larger than others.

To my mind, the fear of terrorism and its manipulation by the Bush campaign cast the longest shadow and carries the most explanatory weight for the election’s outcome. If the September 11 attacks hadn’t happened, it is hard to imagine that Bush would have won.

Not everyone agrees on this; some say that the moral issues were the key. But none other than Karl Rove has reservations about this grand explanation. In an interview on Meet the Press, Rove said,

‘First of all, if you take Iraq and terrorism and aggregate them, which I think are sort of different sides of the same coin, 34 percent of the electorate were concerned with the security issue. If you take taxes and the economy, and aggregate them, they’re 25 percent of the electorate, and then moral values is third … [Concerns about] security grew the most in comparison to past races.’

You’ll be relieved to hear that I dont agree very often with Karl Rove — but I believe that he has got this right.

Still another claim is that Bush won thanks to the mobilization of voters in rural communities and small towns that are now teeming with evangelical Christians. Undoubtedly, this voting bloc, which constitutes a grassroots base of reaction, was important to Bushs success, but that should not obscure another fact: Bush drew votes from other sectors of the population suburban, exurban, and urban voters and of course every kind of Republican and churchgoer.

Moreover, he peeled away some traditional Democratic voters, made inroads into the Catholic vote with the assistance of the church hierarchy, narrowed the gender gap, won a majority of seniors, moved a small sliver of the racially oppressed into his column, and won support among some sections of the working class.

What should we conclude from this? First of all, it argues against the simplistic notion that rural voters and the evangelical Christians among them are the epicenter of the class struggle. They should not be ignored and they have been for too long. But to my mind, Bushs ability to win other layers of voters was as important as his support in rural America.

Another less obvious conclusion that we can draw is that the Bush campaign didnt calibrate everything exclusively to his base in the religious right. While reaching this grouping was a part of the mix, the campaign’s themes had a much broader sweep national security and terrorism, tax cuts to stimulate the economy, aid to small businesses, and so forth. Even on the issue of abortion, Bush never said that he would make it illegal, but rather that he was pro-life.

Rove realized that to win the election, never mind to construct an enduring right-center majority, Bush had to speak to more than the most ideologically-charged section of the right wing.

Thus the shrewdness of Rove lies in his ability to integrate an array of conflicting groups security moms, right wing religious zealots, moderate Protestants and Catholics, small business people, Wall Street executives, high-end and low-end workers among others into a winning electoral coalition.


Conventional wisdom holds that elections are a zero sum game in which one sides gains are the other sides losses. And on the surface this election seems to bear that out. But, as Lenin counseled, politics is more like higher mathematics than simple arithmetic. Thus we have to go beyond the surface of this election in order to see the full-blooded political realities. In doing so we will find that there was a strengthening of both reactionary and progressive trends.

On the one hand, the right wing retained control of the White House, consolidated its position in the Congress and the religious communities, and won some voters from constituencies that traditionally vote Democratic.

On the other hand, the progressive movement reached a new level in terms of its unity, breadth, understanding, and influence. The depth of practical experience that it obtained is immeasurable.

Thanks to this movement, the scope and level of the mass mobilization was unprecedented. No less remarkable were the old and new forms of organizations that put their stamp on the process.

In addition to traditional organizations like the AFL-CIO, the NAACP, NOW, Citizen Action and the National Council of La Raza, to name a few, there were new players on the block, including ACT and MoveOn, which reached and influenced millions of voters. And they did it in new and creative ways. Were it not for all of these organizations the election results would have been very different.

To fully appreciate this staggering mobilization in all of its creativity, forms, and scope, you almost had to take part in the campaign in the battleground states. In these states the election was in your face. To call it a yearlong tornado ricocheting across the heartland may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it was certainly a long slugfest.

Most of us who participated had never seen anything quite like it. While every contingent of the progressive movement contributed to this effort, the role played by the labor movement deserves some further mention.

Never has labor been so mobilized. Never has it acted with such unity. Never has it operated so independently. Never has it projected its issues so forcefully. And never has it invested so much of its resources in one campaign.

While labor was the underpinning of this great struggle, it neither crowded out nor discouraged the mobilizations of other organizations. Indeed, the strength of this unparalleled mobilization was its broad scope, coordinated along parallel lines.

By every measure, this coalition emerged on Nov. 3 stronger and ready to organize the fight against the Bush agenda in the period ahead.

Despite the complexity of the election and its outcome, people of various political persuasions have fixated on the weaknesses of the Kerry campaign. While some criticism is warranted, any explanation that exclusively or even mainly focuses on Kerrys shortcomings is sure to conceal much more than it reveals.

More deserving of criticism in the postmortem is the Democratic Party as a whole. Its performance was woeful. At the same time, we should be mindful that the main class and social forces utilized the Democratic Party to fight the right in this election and, though themselves critical of it, they will in all probability continue to operate within its orbit.

And while we dont think that the Democratic Party is going to morph into a peoples anti-monopoly party, we should not be indifferent to the struggles going on between its liberal, centrist, and conservative wings.

Nor should we foreclose a role for the Democrats in the struggles ahead. To think otherwise would be sectarian nonsense. Like it or not, the Democratic Party will figure into the struggles against the Bush agenda, especially in the Senate.

For these reasons, abstract appeals to break with the Democratic Party make no tactical sense, especially at this moment when Bush is claiming a far-reaching election mandate, and when only the broadest multi-class all-peoples coalition can stay the hand of his second administration.


At a press conference last week, Bush ominously asserted that he had earned political capital and intended to spend it.

While millions do not agree with this manifestly self-serving interpretation of the election, Bush and his advisors could care less and will act with great speed. They fully understand that the glow of their election victory could disappear overnight.

What then are their short-term political objectives? And does the choice of those objectives tell us anything about their longer-term aims? Let me try to answer both questions.

One immediate objective is to privatize (a word that you will never hear them use) Social Security by offering younger workers the opportunity to direct their Social Security taxes into individualized private accounts.

Wall Street, as you would expect, is grinning from ear to ear over this plan. Though nothing is yet in writing, the privatization scheme is meeting considerable resistance already. This fight will be one of the main battlegrounds for the progressive coalition in the coming year.

The outcome of this struggle will have far-reaching effects on the administrations more ambitious plan to eliminate all of the New Deal and Great Society entitlement programs in favor of what Bush euphemistically calls market-based solutions. This administration has high hopes of playing taps over the body of the welfare state.

In doing so, they not only intend to complete the shift of the reproduction costs of labor power — housing, education, job training, day care, health care, retirement and so forth — to the working class and especially its racially and nationally oppressed sectors, but with the slowing down of profitable investment in manufacturing, the privatization of the public sector would offer a new outlet for over-accumulated private capital to find new investment opportunities in formerly public domains.

Despite right-wing rhetoric about big government, no section of the right desires to disempower the state. In fact, quite the opposite their goal is to reconfigure it, to change its role, and to employ all of its considerable power towards achieving their political and economic aims.

More than a half-century ago auto and other corporate interests pressured federal and state governments to disinvest from public transportation, and to subsidize the growth of the auto and other related industries. The longer-term costs of those decisions are only now beginning to be understood, but if the past is prologue, the costs of the Bush privatization plans of the public sector will be staggering and borne particularly by the working class, racial minorities, women and immigrants. While Bush would have us believe that he is creating an ownership society, a more apt phrase (to paraphrase British Marxist David Harvey) to describe this process is accumulation by dispossession.

Another White House objective is to make permanent the tax cuts to the top one percent, and to establish a commission to explore a flat tax on wage earners rather than investors and the wealthy. In doing so, Bush continues the tradition dating back to the Reagan years of turning the state into a more direct and undisguised mechanism of radically redistributing income and surplus value to the wealthiest corporations and individuals. This transfer of wealth over the past quarter century has no precedent in history.

Another Bush priority is to cut funding to social programs in the name of fiscal responsibility. In more than one column, New York Times writer Paul Krugman has described how the extreme right is consciously running up the federal deficit. While at first glance, he writes, their purpose is to reward their wealthy friends and the Pentagon, their other aim is to break the bank so that the Bush gang can then turn around and say that Congress has no other choice but to drastically cut domestic spending. The consequences of this will badly hurt the poorest and most vulnerable communities in our society, strip the state of its welfare functions, and turn the budget appropriation process into a fierce confrontation.

Still another objective is to fill new vacancies on the Supreme Court. Surely Bushs appointments will be judges who share the administrations worldview. They are not going to allow any more Souters to slip by beneath the radar.

With a solidly rightwing-dominated Court, the future of Roe v. Wade, civil rights, labor rights, gay rights, every other democratic right, and even the Bill of Rights itself becomes very problematic. Only mass, militant struggle and a recharged Democratic minority in the Senate can prevent the reversal of the rights revolution of the 1960s.

A final and very important objective of Bushs second administration is to brutally prosecute the war in Iraq.

As recent events in Iraq show, things there are getting worse. The proclaimed victory in Falluja was an empty and bloody one. It is increasingly apparent that staying the course is a dead end. It cuts against the interests of the Iraqi people as well as the American people. It promises more lives lost on both sides. It is suffused with racism and national chauvinism. And, it imposes an unsustainable burden on the federal budget.

Therefore, the fight against the occupation must the main front of struggle in the coming months.

Harvard international relations professor Stanley Hoffman wrote not long ago, the occupation is the main cause of the current troubles. This certainly doesnt mean that the [insurgent] attacks will end if we leave; but whatever we do to try to resolve internal conflicts is likely to backfire.

Continuing military control, he added, direct or indirect, will intensify anti-Americanism and provide a training ground for terrorism, both indigenous and from other countries.

Hoffman concludes with a call for withdrawal of troops and U.S. presence done in tandem with the reintroduction of the UN and other forces of any country acceptable to the Iraqi people and their government.

This proposal makes good sense. First, it would remove an occupying army whose presence is deeply resented by most sections of Iraqi society. Second, it would allow the Iraqi people to begin to gain control over their future.

Third, it would offer the best opportunity to end the bloodshed on all sides. Fourth, it would free up money for peoples needs at home, although the U.S. would have to make a firm economic commitment to assist in the reconstruction of Iraq.

Fifth, it would turn down the temperature in the Middle East and across the entire Islamic world. And finally, it would be a monumental victory for the peace movement.

By forcing the Bush administration to retreat, a strategic blow would be delivered to its imperialist and racist plan of global hegemony. The world would become a safer place.

We know that the Bush administration will resist ending the occupation. After all, winning the war and establishing a client regime is at the core of its strategy to dominate this region of the world and in turn, to strengthen its position vis a vis rival centers of world imperialism.

Nevertheless, the war has strained American forces to the extreme and cut down on U.S. imperialisms ability to engage militarily elsewhere.

What is more, it has badly damaged the legitimacy of the U.S. in the eyes of the international community, thereby further impairing its immediate and longer-term strategic objectives. The exercise of power in the world cannot for long be completely unfastened from some measure of consent from others. Empires without some legitimacy and allies have short shelf lives.

In making this point I am not suggesting that the Bush administration is suddenly going to turn its swords into plowshares. In fact, the military budget is at a record high, the fighting in Iraq has escalated and the neocons are turning their attention to Iran and tightening their grip over the repressive instruments of the state.

But I would suggest that the Bush administration might make some tactical adjustments in response to some of these internal and external constraints and pressures.

Obviously, this is not an argument for easing up mass anti-war pressure — just the opposite. Intensified mass actions aimed at Congress and with an eye to activating a peace majority could cause backing up by the administration and loud grumbling by some of its supporters. Not everybody on the right is happy with this war.

Much the same can be said about the other major conflict in that region of the world. Pressure across the political spectrum is growing for renewed talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. While the situation is very fluid and unstable, the world community is insisting that negotiations for a just peace get back on track. Even sections of the US ruling class, for their own reasons, are increasingly fed up with both Sharons bloody occupation and Bushs full support of that policy.

An example of this is a recent article by Brent Scowcroft, former White House National Security Advisor. He writes (and Im going to quote a long passage for reasons that I hope will be apparent):

The President should add substance to his commitment to an independent Palestinian state. It must include steps to provide security to Israel and to give the Palestinians the ability and means to construct a viable political entity free from the crushing presence of Israeli troops. The United States should insist that Israel stop construction of its wall on the West Bank and mirror its withdrawal from Gaza with the evacuation of the West Bank. In return, the wall and Israeli troops would be replaced by an international peace force, principally European or perhaps NATO troops.

The road map plan of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, Scowcroft goes on to say, should be revived and fortified by the actions Ive described and vigorously pushed by its sponsors to final settlement. The outlines of such a settlement have become much less contested. A unified Jerusalem would serve as capital to both peoples. While the right of return could be left as a principle, the reality is that most Palestinian refugees will remain outside of Israel, just as most Jewish settlers will return to Israel. A donor pool may need to be organized to provide compensation to both groups. Border rectifications would be necessary to compensate for the settlement solution and would complete the package.

Here we have a significant break from the policy of the Bush administration that should be utilized by the peace movement in its efforts to pressure the White House for the resumption of talks, an end to the occupation, a ceasefire on all sides, and a just settlement of all the outstanding issues, including security guarantees to both peoples and national statehood on a contiguous and coherent territory for the Palestinians.

Such a settlement, along with an end to the occupation of Iraq and a peaceful resolution of the Iran situation, would restrain the aggressive drive of the Bush administration, isolate right-wing extremists in the Middle East, and relieve tensions in the world.


In this final section of my report, I want to address some specific issues that bear on the consolidation and extension of the progressive movement and on defeating the Bush administrations program.

While the Bushites are aglow from their election victory, not everything is coming up roses.

The economic situation is far from promising. Growth is sluggish. Job creation is limited. Inflation and interest rates are climbing. The federal and trade deficit are at record levels. Indebtedness is astronomical. The dollar relative to other currencies is falling. And world markets remain awash in commodities.

While we cant predict the exact course of the national and world economies, we can say that both are marked by instability, unevenness, fierce competition, and sluggishness. Moreover, things could get worse before they get better.

Another stubborn reality that the administration faces is the expressed desire of the majority of people for a change in the countrys direction. Across broad swathes of the population there is distress over joblessness and the Wal-Mart economy, health care costs, collapsing pension systems, persistent racism, corporate greed, the coarsening of our culture, increasing poverty, and the growing inequality gap, to name just a few things. And Bush knows that public opinion could quickly sour on his presidency.

In fact, in the popular mind, he is THE captain on the watch. He wont be able to blame Clinton or the Democrats or the terrorist attacks for economic woes. People wont buy it. The finger pointing at what ails the country will more and more point at Bush.

Even among his supporters there are discordant notes from moderates and conservatives alike. Admittedly, the Republican Party is not torn with irremediable differences, but there are differences, and they could grow sharper and come to plague the administration.

Finally, the Iraq war is Bushs war. He will have to answer for whatever goes wrong there. The lack of enthusiasm for the war in the Congress means unreliable allies for the President — once they hear of growing opposition back home, they will wash their hands of this war, fast.


In order to build the broadest possible coalition we have to contest the notion that we are two nations, permanently segmented into two different worlds with different desires, values, and hopes. The Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel recently wrote,

One thing that we can say for certain at this point is that the country is still bitterly divided. We saw two turnouts and two nations last night. Both sides of the chasm saw a major turnout of its voting base. We woke this morning to a country at war with itself. progressives are fighting for the Enlightenment here at home The American right understands that we are two nations.

Such a depiction is both mistaken and harmful. It is mistaken in so far as it describes a hopeless breech and such a breech does not yet exist. Look at some of the public opinion polls. Most people still support womens right to choose abortion; nearly two of three support civil unions for gay couples and even more are opposed to discrimination against gays and people of color; religious people are concerned about jobs, poverty, health care and public education; the majority of people want to retain Social Security, and people in both red states and blue states have misgivings about the war.

Although it is true that the religious right, and especially the evangelical right, has grown in size and influence and presents real dangers, we should not conflate its values with those of the tens of millions of people who live outside the main urban centers.

The assumption that people in red states and non-urban communities are locked into an irreconcilable conflict over moral and cultural values with those who live in blue states and urban centers needs to be thoroughly interrogated.

I would argue that the great majority of people in our country occupy the political center and are tolerant.

Nevertheless, the culture war has been a horse that the right wing has been riding to good effect, in part because both the Democratic Party and the progressive movement have been no-shows in many of the communities where this message resonated.

Which leads to a fundamental question: why did it resonate? Is it solely explained by a servile and manipulative mass media? Is it simply explained by false consciousness? Have right-wing conspirators artificially grafted it on to our body politic?

Each of these possible explanations is worth exploring. And yet if we leave matters here we will come up with a less than satisfactory answer as to why moral and cultural issues roil the public imagination at this moment.

For a deeper answer we have to look at the vast changes that explain why people feel a sense of generalized insecurity. The terror attacks heightened those feelings, but they originated long before September 11.

More than a quarter century ago, old ways of life, old signposts, and old markers that gave people a sense of security and community began disappearing. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, political, economic, and cultural upheavals shook our country and the world. These upheavals were not simply the result of the iron logic of capitalist accumulation, but were also the consequence of the intensification of class and democratic struggles as successive administrations attempted to regain the political initiative and re-position U.S. imperialism and its capitalist state on a domestic and global level.

All of this caused wrenching and unanticipated changes in the conditions of life of hundreds of millions of people. For many, the future became a dice throw. And people adapted to this whirlwind in complex and contradictory ways one of which was to gravitate to religious fundamentalism. Egged on by well-heeled benefactors, and in the absence of a viable progressive or left alternative, right-wing religious fundamentalism in its variety of forms grew in nearly every region of the world. It turned liberalism, secularism, science, and socialism into its main enemies.

In our own country, the emergence of this right-wing religious constituency, organized at the grassroots and encouraged by the White House, poses a new challenge to democratic governance.

At the same time, we would make an egregious mistake if we overestimated its strength and conflated all churchgoers, or even born-again Christians, into this motley grouping.

In fact, one lesson of the election is that we must dialogue with the many religious people who far outnumber the religious right.

In so doing, we have to be principled. For instance, we dont agree that women should be denied their reproductive rights; we are against forcing gay people back into the closet; we believe in full equality for racially oppressed people; we support a strict separation of church and state and a secular society; and so forth.

But, by the same token, we have to be respectful of those who have different views and leave at the door elitist attitudes that sometimes inform our thinking and interactions. Talk radio and Fox News relentlessly paint an image of liberals and the left as New York Times-reading, latte-drinking, French-wine sipping, race car- and football- disdaining, America-hating, religion-scorning and Hollywood-adoring. This is a caricature for sure. But we have to admit that there is an elitist strain in our movement.

As we engage in this dialogue over morals and culture, we also have to find common ground on issues of mutual concern, of which there are many.


At every stage and every turn of the historical process, Marxism says that the struggle for democracy is an inescapable task. It cant be postponed or bypassed for some higher form of struggle.

And given present circumstances, who in their right mind would argue with this proposition? The Bush administrations attitude toward international and domestic law is hostile and its actions are alarming. International treaties have been unilaterally abrogated. The Geneva Convention has been declared non-binding. New legal doctrine has been created to sanction torture. Rights to habeas corpus, legal counsel, and trial by jury have been wantonly denied. Sweeps and racial profiling of Arabs and Muslims have become widespread. Invasions of personal privacy have become daily occurrences.

Frontal attacks to weaken and destroy the fighting capacity of the progressive coalition are becoming more commonplace. In this regard, the charges against Julian Bond and the NAACP should be seen as the canary in the mine, and raise the specter of more far-reaching assaults against other peoples organizations. And dead in the sights of the far right is the labor movement.

Much of this has been codified into law in the form of the Patriot Act, institutionalized in the activity of the Homeland Security and Justice Departments, and rationalized in the name of fighting terror. On closer inspection, however, it is obvious that this unprecedented assault on our constitutional and democratic rights isnt the inexorable consequence of the War on Terror. Rather it springs from the hegemonic aims and political coloration of the Bush administration. As I said earlier, this is no ordinary bourgeois democratic regime — it operates only reluctantly within the margins of democracy.

Thus, the struggle to preserve democracy calls for an aroused response by the progressive movement to even the slightest attempt by the Bush administration to cut down on democratic rights or cripple the organizational capacities of the coalition. This is a political imperative.

This regime is not fascist, but the danger that it presents to democratic governance should not be underestimated. Our tactics have to be flexible enough to draw into struggle all of the diverse class and social forces that value our democratic structures and rights.


The systematic campaign to disenfranchise racial minorities in this election was outrageous and dripping with racism, but then, thats not entirely surprising. For the past four decades, an essential part of the Republican Partys strategy to regain political dominance has been to employ racism. It is traceable to Nixons southern strategy.

Using faintly veiled code words and imagery, the Republican Party and especially the far right that now dominates it, has mobilized white voters to support their program of reaction and racism. And this strategy has met with some success in the South and elsewhere.

Racist ideology not only rationalizes and institutionalizes the harsh exploitation and oppression of people of color, but also disfigures and disunites class and democratic struggles, cripples the development of class and political consciousness, and sustains the rule of reaction.

Therefore, a consistent and many-sided struggle against racism and for equality is imperative. As Marx wrote, Labor in the white skin can never be free as long as labor in the black skin is branded.

For Marx and for our Party, it has always been a fundamental conviction that white workers must and can be won on the basis of their own interests to struggle against racism and for the full political, economic, and social equality of all racially oppressed people.

And yet I wonder if some weakening of that fundamental understanding has occurred in the Party and YCL, as well as other movements.

Such weakening stems from two interrelated notions. One is that white workers are so backward and reactionary that they cannot be convinced to join the struggle for equality and class unity; the other is that white workers benefit from racism. Both notions are politically disarming and demobilizing and we have to combat them.

A sustained, intensified, and concrete struggle against racism is absolutely necessary. Any hopes of decisively defeating right-wing extremism, any hopes of recovering the South, and any hopes of extending labors reach in the South and elsewhere will in no small measure depend on the movements readiness to actively engage white workers to fight against racism. This is a subject that deserves more discussion in the Party and YCL, not to mention among left, progressive, and liberal people.


With the election a few weeks behind us the big questions are: How do we move forward? What are the main issues? Who are the main forces? What kinds of alliances are necessary? What is our role?

The forces with whom we will coalesce in the post-election period are the same ones we worked with on the elections labor, the racially oppressed, women, young people, seniors, peace and environmental activists, gays and lesbians, to name some.

Immediately, we should re-engage with them, share assessments, and explore possible initiatives, including the idea of peoples legislative conferences and town hall meetings to discuss priorities for the period ahead. We should also consider how to activate the sixty million people who stayed home on Election Day.

In addition, given the political coloration of the Bush administration, we have to appeal to democratic-minded people of varied political persuasions. And, as Lenin always advised, we should be sensitive to fissures in the ruling class.

In short, the coalition that we envision must be broader and deeper than the one that almost beat Bush on November 2. Indeed, it has to be if we hope to slow down, stop, and reverse the Bush offensive.

As for the main issues of struggle, the agenda is largely going to be set by the Bush administration. I wish that were not the case, but given the present balance of forces, I dont see how we can conclude anything different.

That doesnt preclude us taking initiative on other issues, like health care and the minimum wage, but such initiatives have to be sunk in and linked to the struggles against Bushs agenda and legislative initiatives.

The Senate, obviously, is going to be a key battleground, and will feel mass pressure from both sides. We should not foreclose the possibility of some moderate Republicans breaking from their party on some issues. In fact, we must win some of them.

The struggle for unity looms large in the present political circumstances. Where divisions exist the Bush administration and his counterparts in Congress will take advantage of them. The task of the progressive and left movement is to build the broadest democratic and united front against Bushs policies.

The labor movement must play an important role in this regard. The considerable prestige it earned in the election campaign allows it to be a unifying force.

Of course, labor itself is engaged in some discussions concerning its structure, priorities, and unity as a movement. From our standpoint, there is nothing wrong with such a frank exchange. In fact, it is necessary and our comrades in the labor movement should actively participate. But everyone in the labor movement has to be mindful of the overriding necessity of unity at this moment and not give in to impatience with the process.

This isnt 1936. There is no progressive majority in the Congress nor does FDR sit in the White House. The Sweeny leadership bears no resemblance to William Greens craft-based AFL. And we dont have anything on the legislative table like the Wagner Act, a bill enacted in the mid-thirties which greatly enhanced labors ability to organize.


Some have asked: Now that the election is over, are we going to get back to doing communist work?

The answer to that question is: we never stopped doing communist work. Our work in the 2004 election was the best example of such work in decades. We were connected to masses. We were in the heart of a momentous struggle for democracy. We contributed to the extending and deepening of left-center unity. We carried out our strategic policy of combating the right danger. We distributed our paper and other publications. We recruited new members to the Party and YCL. We established new clubs. We gained enormous experience that will be so useful as we go forward. We gained much goodwill for the Party and YCL. And we ourselves changed and grew in so many good ways.

The challenge now is to continue this method and style of work in the post-election period. The role of communists isnt to stand on the sidelines and pontificate about the need for a more advanced program. Our starting point is the existing class struggle. We have no interests separate and apart from the workingclass and peoples movements.

In the past, there were moments when we understood our role as strictly ideological. We thought it was to project a left program and then wait for millions to gravitate toward it. But this is a caricature of the role of communists in the struggle.

Lenin once said, The task of the party is not to invent some fashionable method of helping the workers, but to join the workers movement and to assist the worker in the struggles that they have already started themselves.

And isnt this all the more important now, given the menacing nature of the Bush administration? Isnt it in the course of this struggle that the working class and its organized sector and its allies will gain experience and a deeper understanding of political realities?

Of course, we should bring our Marxist thinking into the movement, but such thinking resonates only to the degree that we are fully engaged in the practical struggles for the interests of the working class.

And, of course, there is political space for left forms, but again, only to the degree that left forms are necessary and only if and I want to underscore this only if their mission is to work with and move center forces in labor and elsewhere. Left forms that simply talk to like-minded people are a poor use of our energy.


We should continue our focus on the Midwest states. We broke new ground there, but we still have more tilling of the soil to do if we are going to consolidate these breakthroughs.

I also want to propose that the PWW Editorial Board host a working meeting where we discuss steps to expand the papers circulation. We should also consider conferences to discuss our work in religious communities and in the academic field. Another pressing task is to reexamine our education work for the coming year and ask ourselves how, with our limited forces, we can do more.

We have to build the Party and YCL, beginning with the revitalization of our clubs. We have been saying this for a while, but our experience in the election struggle serves to underscore its necessity. I would suggest that we review the decisions of the June National Board meeting on Party and YCL building, including the organizing of a Party- wide discussion. If we have made only limited progress in carrying out these decisions, (which would be understandable given the demands of the past 9 months), with our convention coming up we have an ideal opportunity to correct this shortcoming.

In the meantime, we should go over the many new contacts that we met in the course of the election campaign and decide how we are going to bring them closer or into the Party and YCL. And lets make this task a priority.


Blunting the Bush agenda wont be easy, but it must and can be done. Not for a long time perhaps never have we seen a progressive coalition of the size and scope that spread out across the country this past year. While it came up a little short in its effort to defeat Bush, it has the potential to become a center-left majority on a national level. This coalition, which is anchored in the core components of the American people labor, the racially oppressed and women possesses a growth curve that is far from exhausted.

With initiative, creativity, and united actions, this coalition can and must deepen and extend its reach to every region of the country (especially the South) and to wider sections of the people. Even among Bushs current supporters there are different classes and social forces whose interests are contradictory, thereby presenting opportunities for the progressive movement. Assembling an election coalition is one thing, but sustaining it at the level of governance is much more difficult.

What is shaping up is a titanic struggle over the future of our country. Each of us has to step forward. As with other turning points in our nations history, unity, and especially multiracial unity, must be the watchword and the struggle to defend and extend democracy in all of its forms must be the overriding aim.

Only a labor-led united peoples coalition that reaches out to tens of millions can turn back the right-wing offensive that is spearheaded by the White House. Just as the Bush team is accelerating its preparations for a new offensive, the broad peoples movement must quickly regroup in order to resist their agenda of war, economic hardship, inequality, intensified racism and discrimination in all of its forms, and violations of democratic liberties. The political soul of our Republic hangs in the balance.


Related Articles

For democracy. For equality. For socialism. For a sustainable future and a world that puts people before profits. Join the Communist Party USA today.

Join Now

We are a political party of the working class, for the working class, with no corporate sponsors or billionaire backers. Join the generations of workers whose generosity and solidarity sustains the fight for justice.

Donate Now

CPUSA Mailbag

If you have any questions related to CPUSA, you can ask our experts
  • QHow does the CPUSA feel about the current American foreign...
  • AThanks for a great question, Conlan.  CPUSA stands for peace and international solidarity, and has a long history of involvement...
Read More
Ask a question
See all Answer