Building Left Unity

 
September 21, 2001

Opening to the National Committee

Defeating
the Bush administration will require the widest possible unity. This report
will discuss the role of the left and left unity in this regard. Recent
developments suggest that the time has come for us to revisit this issue
and refine our collective thinking.

The last
election created a center-left electoral majority. The majority of the
left worked to defeat Bush. This majority is likely to grow in the future.
At the same time, unity of action has to be built with that section of
the left that voted for Nader. The imperative of all-peoples unity and
creating the broadest possible anti-Bush front demands this as the election
fiasco clearly demonstrated.

A strong
and rather vibrant left has emerged over the past period and is daily
gaining strength. Clearly the left has a role to play. The Communist Party
for some time understood this and has advanced the idea that a broad left
exists in the U.S. This concept remains a vital and vibrant idea.

It was broad
left forces, joined by centrists and moderates, that marched against the
radical right and for a woman’s right to choose in Washington a few weeks
past. It was the broad left that formed a significant component of the
thousands that marched against the FTAA and capitalist globalization in
Montreal just days before.

However,
it would be a mistake to limit the conception of the left. Left and right
are defined in class terms: the broad left is a majority working-class
left. It is a left that is defined by its anti-imperialist, anti-corporate,
and pro?labor positions. The broad left is composed of people who are
anti-racist, anti-sexist and anti-homophobic; the broad left is pro-peace
and pro-environment.

The growth
of this broad left is shaped and given momentum by the class struggle
and the radicalization process itself. It is emerging spontaneously and
is somewhat non-ideological. However, it is learning big lessons about
the system, the nature of capitalism, the state, what international labor
solidarity means, etc., over the last few years. The Charleston 5 struggle
is a case in point.

At the same
time, it should be recognized that there is a growing ideological stream
in the broad left current. At many levels of the trade union movement
and in civil rights, immigrant, student, and community organizations,
socialist and communists are increasingly active. In the main, they are
largely unorganized, and unaffiliated.

There are
significant changes in the ideological positions of the organized non-sectarian
Marxist forces. Here, too, a significant evolution has occurred. Faced
with the collapse of socialism in Europe and part of Asia, and by what
some regard as a retreat by China, many of these forces are rethinking
things, re-evaluating the past, searching and seeking for new alternatives
and solutions.

In fact we
are witnessing a regroupment process taking place in the left ? a regroupment
toward the working-class and trade union movement, a regroupment away
from middle-class radicalism and anti-Communism.

It must be
recognized that at least in part this regroupment process is driven by
the fact that the main reasons for the division of some sections of the
left have largely disappeared.

Thus the
left is not what it once was. It has grown, matured and is continuing
to evolve.

The Communist
Party must also evolve. We must make common cause with other forces on
the left. This includes groups and individuals. There is no monopoly on
truth or struggle. The Party’s leading role must not be confined to the
ideological sphere or be the subject of declarations but must be won in
the course of struggle. It is not an exclusive role. The idea of coalition
building must include the revolutionary movement as well. We must start
building the coalition of tomorrow, today.

The left
is composed of serious people with serious ideas. We will agree with them
on some things and disagree on others. The point is that we not write
them off and that we work together in pursuit of those things where we
hold common interests.

This has
implications in the ideological sphere as well. We hold Marxism-Leninism
to be an objective science. It is the product of the working-class movement.
It is not the private property of anyone. The Communist Party’s relationship
to it, while unique, is not exclusive. While our ideology is dear to our
heart we must not hold it close to our chest. Our Marxism must enable
us to earnestly engage others and not separate us from them.

Updating
our concept of the left means also updating our notions of the forms of
left and left-center unity and left initative. Our strategic goal of defeating
the ultra-right and longer-term anti-monopoly strategy leaves wide room
for variety and experimentation. What may work in one field of struggle
may not work in another. We have to leave room for trial, error, and correction.

Our concept
of left-center unity in the trade union and other areas of work has proved
its worth. It must be strengthened. CP National Chair Sam Webb has said
that the whole purpose of the left is to engage the center. Of this, there
can be no doubt. While continuing to emphasize our policy of working side-by-side
in the trade unions and mass organizations, we must also see the need
for left forms, coalitions, and initiatives around various struggles as
well. The forms we utilize to engage them will vary as the situation requires.
The key again is flexibility.

Whom we work
with today and how we work them will determine whom we work with in the
future. In a manner of speaking, coalition-building is the be all and
end all of the role of the Party. We think this includes the present stage
up to and including the new society. Again, we need to start building
the coalition of tomorrow today.

With this
in mind, we should be open to holding meetings with other organizations
and individuals on the left. We should actively pursue discussions with
others: Greens, independent political parties, groups and networks. We
should actively attend conferences and forums like the Socialist Scholars,
Rethinking Marxism and other left meetings and forums. The point is that
we should actively engage with those who we hold similar views.

Some have
advanced the idea of rebuilding the left: a noble objective, indeed. In
our view, such an enterprise cannot be separated from the active involvement
in the day-to-day struggles of the people. In addition, it is important
to point out that the left cannot be built separate and apart from working
to defeat the right danger. It would be a dangerous illusion to do otherwise.

The left
also cannot be built without shoring up its ideological reserves, particularly
in the working class. Part and parcel of this must be a reexamination
of ideological weaknesses, particularly in areas relating to the relationship
between the class struggle and the struggle for democracy. Here, particular
attention must be paid to weaknesses and underestimation of the national
question and the fight against racism, sexism and the special oppression
of women, and homophobia. We have our own weaknesses in this regard.

As you know,
we have also in the last period held discussions with some individuals
who left the Party during the factional period. These discussions too
have been engaging and rigorous and friendly.

Here, too,
the new situation in the working class is making its influence felt. Here,
too, people are changing their views in response to the new situation.

A lot of
water has passed under the bridge since those difficult days; a lot of
lessons have been learned. Since that time we have worked together in
trade unions and mass organizations. We have been mutually respectful
and learned to set certain things aside and to forgive, if not forget
and move on.

We should
recognize that not everything they said was wrong and at the same time
not everything we did was right. It was difficult to get to these things
because of the unique situation of the times and the nature of the struggle
in which we fought.

As is well
known, since the Convention, we always maintained an open door policy
to those who decided to not remain in the Party. Today we should restate
and renew that policy. We should also add to it that the time has come
for healing. This is long overdue.

You should
know that some have expressed an interest in rejoining the Party. I think
we should welcome them back.

The time
has come for healing. We remember that what we fought for was sound. We
won the existence of our Party, its Communist character, its Marxist-Leninist
outlook, our working-class line. Because of that fight we are able to
stand here today, strong, united, proud, our principles intact. And with
that strength and unity and pride, we are able to say the time has come
for healing.

Those were
difficult days back then, many lost their footing, whole parties dissolved,
folks lost their way. Some are just now getting their legs. Some stayed
away for subjective reasons that time and events have washed away.

We should
extend a hand to all of them.

I say this
not as a distant observer of those events, but as an active participant
for the very heart of that fight, and I’ts because of that, because I
know what that struggle meant, that I can say, the wound must be closed,
the scars smoothed away

I know what
the factional struggle meant. I know what we gained. I also know what
we lost.

On this subject
I think it is important to be objective and act in the best interest of
the Party and the working-class movement. In this regard, unity is what
is in our collective best interests. We open our doors to those who agree
with our program, principles and ideology. We work in coalition with others
who don’t. We fight for left unity, left-center coalitions, broader all-peoples
coalitions to defeat the ultra right. We build the coalition of tomorrow
today, taking care of (to paraphrase Marx) the movement of the future
in the movement of the present.

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