We are living in dangerous times

 
July 10, 2003

Below is Sam Webbs’ opening report to the CPUSA National Committee meeting held in New York City, June 28-29.

Our country and the world are going through an exceedingly dangerous period. I suppose one could imagine a more ominous time, but I cant think of one. We have fought two wars in the space of six months and two bloody, costly, and coercive occupations have followed. No exit strategy is under consideration in either Afghanistan or Iraq.

The Middle East is smoldering and we havent heard the last from the Arab people, who have been at once humiliated and enraged by the illegal and unnecessary invasion of Iraq, the brutal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and their own repressive regimes.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is entering a new stage, but the outlook is problematic as long as the occupation continues.

Northeast Asia and the Korean peninsula are a powder keg, in large measure because of the threatening policies of the Bush administration.

The nuclear weapons race is entering a new phase of escalation, thanks, we are told, to the countries that are trying to acquire such weapons, rather than the Bush administration, which possesses the biggest stockpile and is ready to use them in a range of military situations. The expansion of US military bases to new countries and regions a telltale sign of an aggrandizing imperial power proceeds at great speed.

The war in the Congo continues and is traceable to colonialism, to a new international division of labor that marginalizes vast stretches of the African continent and to the indifference of the developed countries to the dire human crisis that is exploding there and in other parts of the developing world. Three million lives have already been lost.

The terms preemption and regime change have reentered the vocabulary of the Bush administration, this time with Iran and North Korea as the targets. The US mission in Havana has been turned into an organizing center of provocative and illegal actions against Cubas legally constituted and popularly supported government.

Legitimate concerns about the terrorism of non-state actors like Al Qaeda, continues to be exploited as the rationale for a generalized US imperialist policy of aggression against sovereign states that present no security risk to our nation.

On the home front

At home, the war against peoples living standards and democratic rights is gathering speed proving, once again, that aggression abroad and domestic political reaction are two sides of a single policy of US imperialism.

Attempts are afoot to reverse what the neoconservatives call the rights revolution of 1965-1975, a decade during which people of color and women won rights long denied.

Our governments tax policy, more aptly named the first great heist of the 21st century, is a mechanism to massively redistribute income from all sections of the working class and other social strata to the wealthy and the corporations.

Mega deficits now projected into the next decade are brutally cutting away the entire social safety net whose main pillars are Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, unemployment insurance, anti-discrimination laws, and aid for poor families.

The welfare state, which never measured up to the hype, is being systematically dismantled, thus shifting the costs of the social reproduction of labor power to the workers themselves and converting the public sector into a site of capital accumulation and profiteering.

Regulatory agencies are mutating into instruments of deregulation to deprive people of their rights and to despoil the environment. Notions like color blindness and reverse racism are the official mantra used to justify a sweeping assault on nationally and racially oppressed people.

New laws and judicial orders are enacted that deny immigrants due process and establish legal precedents and institutional arrangements for a much wider attack on the democratic rights of citizens and non-citizens alike.

A quiet, but profoundly serious, counterrevolution is going on in the federal court system, with the nomination of judges whose views are in the same twisted political universe of Scalia, Thomas, and Rhenquist.

Finally, dissent is labeled disloyalty and peoples legitimate pride in our country is manipulated and turned into a disfigured and vengeful nationalism. Taken together these policies of the Bush administration amount to a punishing, political U-turn for our country not to mention the world.

Writing in the Nation, William Greider recently said that the White House is trying to steal the 20th century. I like that turn of phrase, though Im not sure it captures viscerally enough the new dangers to peace and democracy that are enveloping our country and the world.

On the other hand, I havent come up with anything better, but I will say this: if the country continues on its present course, the future of humankind looks perilous. We should remember that social retrogression of a calamitous nature is not a concept that is foreign to Marxism.

In the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels wrote, Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.

Of course, Marx and Engels had great confidence in the working class and the possibilities of a socialist future for humankind. We wholeheartedly share their confidence, but to secure a better future, millions of Americans, along with people worldwide, have to hit the streets, organize and unite. The Communist Party (CPUSA) and the Young Communist League (YCL) have to be an integral part of that process.

Right wing on the rise

Some say that the new dangers facing humanity follow inevitably from the new stage and contradictions of capitalist globalization and the general logic of imperialism; others argue that they are the consequence of the new correlation of power that issued from the overthrow of the Soviet Union.

Undoubtedly, both capitalist globalization and the new configuration of power in the world figure prominently into any explanation of the new dangers that have arisen but they dont determine it.

That distinction goes to the most right-wing section of transnational capital and its political representatives, whose ascendancy began two decades ago and culminated in the theft of the White House in 2000. Had the extreme right not engineered that political coup, it is doubtful that our government would be pursuing such extreme and reckless domestic and foreign policies.

In other words, the new dangers are the outcome of a political struggle within the ruling class as well as between the most reactionary fraction of transnational capital on the one side, and the working class and peoples forces on the other.

Implicit in this analysis is the proposition that the US ruling class is divided. It doesnt have, for example, the internal coherence and unity that it had at the beginning of the Cold War. The divisions that run through it are becoming more evident in the post-Iraq world.

Lenin once wrote, To carry on a war for the overthrow of the international bourgeoisie, a war which is a hundred times more difficult, protracted and complex than the most stubborn of ordinary wars between states, and to renounce in advance any change of tack, or any utilization of a conflict of interest even if temporary among ones enemies, or any conciliation or compromise with possible allies, even if they are temporary, unstable vacillating or conditional allies is this not ridiculous in the extreme?

This remains good advice. Given the fierce assault on peace and democracy by the Bush administration, it would be a crime for the all-peoples front not to take advantage of these divisions in our own ruling class just as we do with respect to inter-imperialist rivalries on a global level.

By themselves these divisions wont bring about a change in the political landscape, but they can create openings to activate broader sections of people and even, in some struggles, tip the scales against the most reactionary section of transnational capital and US imperialism.

This is not an unimportant point and should inform our strategy, tactics, tasks, and understanding of this period. It has a major bearing on our attitude toward the 2004 elections. It should influence everything we do.

The moment

The Bush administration is trying to extend a unipolar moment into a unipolar era in which US imperialism exercises uncontested political and economic dominion over its rivals and the world. In its eyes, the new configuration of power in the world, the capture of the White House in 2000, and the post-September 11th atmosphere represent a singular opportunity to build a world empire.

The pursuit of world hegemony, of course, is not peculiar to the Bush administration and its right-wing corporate backers. Since World War II, successive administrations, Democratic and Republican alike, have pursued this goal.

Nevertheless, they had a different understanding of hegemony and employed different methods to achieve their global imperialist objectives. These differences between Bush and earlier administrations are more than differences of degree.

The Italian communist Antonio Gramsci said that hegemony combines elements of force and consent. International relations theorists say that both hard power, military strength and soft power the attractiveness of a countrys ideals, policies, and political style are required by an aspiring hegemonic power.

What distinguishes the Bush administration from its predecessors is not only the overriding weight that it attaches to force and hard power, but also the disdain that it has for soft power, consensual politics and multilateral alliances.

The three main pillars of the Bush doctrine are preemptive strikes, regime change and unchallenged global dominance. The disposition of Bushs policy-makers is to go it alone, to dictate rather than lead, to exercise power in muscular ways.

Unlike the Clinton White House, the Bush administration has complete contempt for the intermediary role of international law and treaties. The only sovereignty that counts is US sovereignty.

By the same token, the only international institutions that matter are the ones that US imperialism can dominate. Their attitude to the United Nations can only be described as venomous.

So, while we shouldnt lose sight of the continuity between this administration and previous ones, what we have to grasp are the breaks and fault lines that separate them. For it is precisely these differences that are pushing our country and the world into very perilous waters and, at the same time, bringing to the surface a worldwide, multiclass front against US imperialism and hegemony.

Economic rivalry

Does this new policy of the Bush administration spring from strength or weakness? I would say from strength, that is, from the vastly superior military forces in the hands of US imperialism relative to its rivals. Never have there been such disparities of military power in the world.

But I would immediately add that the White House drive for world domination is also driven by weakness: US capitalisms overwhelming military advantage isnt mirrored at the political or economic level.

At one time, the US economy was preeminent in the world and enjoyed sustained, robust growth and was economically complementary (the economic successes of one contributed to the economic successes of the others) with other countries of the capitalist core.

But this era was supplanted roughly 30 years ago by a long era of slow growth, stagnation, heightened competition in oversubscribed markets and an evolving redistribution of economic assets to the favor of its chief competitive state rivals.

The US economy remains the biggest for sure, but it no longer dwarfs the others. The European Union and the Asian countries, including socialist China, have grown into powerful and, increasingly, regionally integrated economic zones. In fact, in the 1990s the Asian countries were the most dynamic center of accumulation.

On a political level, much the same is true. The US has enormous strength, but the major rivals of US imperialism bring to the table some advantages, too. No longer needing the massive presence of US military forces on their soil and favoring as well as feeling the pressure of a vast movement demanding a global governance system that is rule based, these states are asserting themselves in a more independent fashion.

Against this background, the Clinton administration, with the help of Greenspans Federal Reserve Board and Wall Street, favored the use of economic and financial mechanisms and institutions to restore US world supremacy as well as to weaken its main competitive rivals and to restructure the economies of the developing world.

The Bush administration, on the other hand, is not ready to solely, or even mainly, rely on economic levers of power. Instead, it is determined to convert its unrivaled military might into political and economic advantages for US imperialism and its transnational corporations. Military dominance is seen as a vital highway to restoring US capitalisms preeminence in the world. But it is easier said than done.

Struggle for peace

The aggressive, bellicose posture of the Bush administration continues to make the struggle for peace a paramount issue of our time. It is a struggle on many different fronts and levels, one which brings into motion broad class forces many more than we imagined six months ago.

At the core of the struggle is the fight for basic changes in our nations foreign policy, away from war and confrontation and towards peace and the non-use of force to settle conflicts. In the 21st century, war must not be the continuation of politics by other means.

Peace must prevail. Thus, the task of the peace movement is to respond to actual and potential flash points as well as to challenge the main assumptions of the Bush doctrine.

The first is Iraq. With each passing week, the liberators are showing themselves to be colonizers and occupiers. But they are meeting stubborn and unexpected resistance from the Iraqi people. A UN sponsored peacekeeping and reconstruction team would best serve the building of a democratic, economically viable Iraq a difficult task under any circumstances.

The task of the peace movement is to demand that our troops be brought home, the occupation ended, the money saved be redirected to social needs here, and support be extended to the UN.

By any standard of justice, the US government should pay an indemnity to the Iraqi people for the death and destruction resulting from an invasion that was based on a very big lie.

Another front of the peace struggle involves Iran and North Korea, both of which have been threatened by the Bush administration. White House spokespeople say that these countries are in violation of the non-proliferation treaty and, in Bushs words, nuclear weapons will not be tolerated.

To think that you can threaten small states with annihilation on the one hand and expect them to observe a treaty that would deny them the one weapon that might balance US power and deter aggression on the other hand is absurd.

Who gave this administration the right to threaten preemptive strikes and to assume the role of judge, jury, and executioner of the non-proliferation treaty? Isnt that the province of the UN?

It is precisely the militarist policies and actions of the White House that are cutting the ground from beneath the non-proliferation treaty and universal disarmament. According to article VI of the treaty, countries that possess nuclear arsenals have an obligation to eliminate their own arsenals and observe all of the existing nuclear weapons treaties. But this is precisely what the Bush administration has refused to do. The real nuclear rogue is in Washington, not Teheran or Pyongyang.

If the Bush administration were to stop issuing threats, scale down its own nuclear weapons arsenal and end nuclear testing and research, the problem of proliferation would appreciably lessen and a new momentum would be given to the process of universal disarmament. Unfortunately, the Bush administration is going in the opposite direction, thereby making the struggle for disarmament one of the central tasks of the peace movement and all of humanity

Israeli-Palestinian conflict

The eyes of the world are turning towards another corner of the Middle East where negotiations are resuming between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority.

For 30 years the Palestinian people have fought under the most adverse conditions for their inalienable right to national statehood. We unequivocally support their just struggle against a colonial occupier.

While we dont support the practice of suicide bombings of innocent Israeli civilians, this fact does not weaken our support for the Intifada and other legitimate means of struggle against Israeli expansion and occupation of lands that belong rightfully to the Palestinian people.

In our view, only a two-state solution that allows both peoples to live securely inside their own borders and peacefully with each other offers any hope of ending this conflict. Although we welcome the resumption of peace talks, we are concerned that the Bush administration, with the echoes of the Iraq war still audible, aims to divide the Palestinian leadership and impose a one-sided and unjust solution.

Unless it changes its approach, the Road Map will quickly reach a dead and deadly end. The Palestinian people will not accept a balkanized and enfeebled state that is dependent on US imperialism and subordinate to Israel. Nor will they accept George W. Bush telling them which of its leaders and organizations are acceptable.

A cease-fire must be accompanied by a process that begins to eliminate the Israeli military presence and Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. Once that begins then negotiations will proceed on a more promising basis and move on to sticky issues like Jerusalem, right of return, economic and water rights, and so forth.

Any other sequencing of the steps is very problematic. In fact, Washingtons insistence that the Palestinians lay down their arms while Israel is allowed to keep the settlements in place as well as assassinate and restrict the movement of Palestinian leaders is a prescription for failure.

For the peace and solidarity movement the main task is to pressure Congress and the Bush administration to lean on the Sharon government to take tangible steps to lift the state of siege and to begin dismantling the settlements, while supporting a cease fire on both sides.

Another concern is the heightened pressure and interference of the Bush administration in Cuba. The administration knows that the Cuban government and its leader, Fidel Castro, enjoy popular support, thereby making internally driven regime change a pipe dream.

Thus its destabilizing, and sometimes deadly, illegal activities are designed to weaken international support for ending the US blockade and normalizing relations.

At this dangerous moment, our party and YCL should join with others to continue to build support among diverse groupings of the American people. We should do everything we can to support the U.S. Cuba Youth Exchange, which promises to bring an enthusiastic and broad delegation of young people this summer to Cuba. Too often the organized solidarity movement ends up preaching to the choir rather than organizing activities that reach out to a broad public, including business interests.

All-peoples front

Now I want to turn to the overriding task of the moment: assembling a broad, all-peoples coalition against the Bush administration and its supporters. Only such a coalition has the political muscle to slow down and reverse the ultra-right offensive and the capacity to bring into being a more just, more democratic, safer country and world.

While each component of this coalition labor, racially and nationally oppressed people, women, youth, seniors, farmers, environmentalists, peace activists, gays and lesbians and many others has significant political power, the merging of these streams into a broader river of protest makes victory possible.

Labor, racially and nationally oppressed people, and women are at the core of this coalition. Placing it this way brings into sharper focus what are the essential social forces and alliances that are the bedrock of an all-peoples coalition. It also elevates the struggles for racial and gender equality, which are the glue that binds the larger whole. Finally, it captures how the movement is actually developing on the ground.

This formulation doesnt dilute our class approach nor does it diminish the importance that we give to labors role. Marx, Engels, and Lenin never envisioned the working class leading a solitary existence. Rather they had the working class on the front lines of all democratic struggles and allied with its strategic partners in the democratic and socialist movement. In their view, the struggle for democracy is at the heart of the class struggle.

The all-peoples coalition, which can be traced back to the Reagan years, has gained in size, influence and scope. It is multilevel, multi-issue and ideologically diverse.

New forces have entered the movement in the last decade, while old forces have been transformed. Consider the growing role of Mexican Americans, immigrants, anti-globalization activists, and environmentalists, to name a few.

The all-peoples coalition is not a formally structured alliance it is very loosely structured; in fact, the various social forces comprising it tend to work in parallel fashion although this seems to be changing.

A turning point in the evolution of this broad front was the election of a new leadership of the AFL-CIO in 1995. The leaderships emphasis on membership mobilization and organizing, reaching out to allied organizations, and political action independent of the apparatus of the Democratic Party imparted a new and transformative impulse and strength to all-peoples unity and action.

Although the events of Sept. 11 stunned and immobilized the various elements in this coalition, it was only temporarily, as subsequent events have shown. There is more than one reason for this, but no small measure of credit goes to the peace movement.

While the peace forces did not have the political muscle to stop the invasion of Iraq, they did draw new forces into struggle on an unprecedented scale, empowered voices that had been either silent or barely audible and gave legitimacy to all forms of public protest.

In a word, the peace movement changed the atmosphere and dynamics of the struggle against the Bush administration. This was evident at the recent conferences of the Campaign for Americas Future, Rainbow/PUSH, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Jobs with Justice, United for Peace and Justice, Win Without War, and a number of international unions.

At each of these gatherings and we participated in all of them a fighting spirit was palpable. The 2004 elections were the bulls-eye of the discussions and speeches. Unity was an overriding theme and there was no sense of defeatism. We should expect more of the same at the NAACP and NOW conferences this summer.

If these conferences are any harbinger of the future, then the stage is set for the biggest election mobilization in our nations history since 1936. Needless to say, the whole CPUSA and YCL have to be part of this, especially at the grassroots.

Our strategic policy

Our strategic policy, which captures so well these political processes sweeping our country, is not a departure from our earlier strategy of the anti-monopoly coalition. Rather, it is a necessary adjustment to a new configuration of forces in which the extreme right and the most reactionary sections of transnational capital and their political representatives have captured the main levers of state power.

What follows from that estimate is the imperative of gathering the broadest constellation of class and social forces to decisively curb their power, thereby objectively weakening and setting the stage to struggle against monopoly power as a whole.

Any attempt to bypass this stage will result in the isolation of the broader left from the very forces that it seeks to influence. The struggle to win tens of millions to higher forms of struggle begins with the struggle against the Bush administrations policies. It is the ground zero of revolutionary politics. Propaganda alone is not enough, even when coming from the most persuasive of us. Masses need their own political experience.

Can we win national health insurance, comprehensive affirmative action, a shorter workweek, rebuilding of our cities and rural communities, protection of womans reproductive rights, quality integrated education for all, full rights for immigrants, a peaceful foreign policy, and so forth without defeating Bush and the class forces that his administration represents? Can we move in the direction of the formation of an independent political party and a peoples government without decisively curbing the right danger?

Some of you may be wondering, where is socialism in this process of struggle? How does it fit in? Im not going to try to answer that question now, but I do want to say that we are preparing a document for party-wide discussion. Hopefully, it will address this and other questions in a way that is both thoughtful and stimulating. Without question, we need to take a fresh look at our concepts so that we can bring to the American people a compelling vision of socialism and how to get there.

2004 elections

The signature struggle of the next 16 months will be, of course, the 2004 elections. Defeating Bush and taking back Congress is the main way to slow down and reverse the right-wing offensive. This doesnt mean that everything else should be put on a back burner nor collapsed into the electoral arena. But in one way or another, every struggle should be connected to the elections.

The outcome in November 2004 will either set in motion an accelerated right-wing offensive with all the dangers to peace, democracy, equality and economic security. Or it will deal a rebuff hopefully a decisive rebuff to the right-wing counterrevolution.

A victory against Bush and the ultraright will slow down and reverse the erosion of democratic rights. It will bring relief from the budgetary and economic crises. It will create new opportunities to address the health care and pension crisis. It will create better conditions in which to battle racism. It will bring some sanity back to our environmental policies and it will ease the war danger.

At the moment on the global level there is no counterweight to the power of US imperialism. In these circumstances, the role of the American people grows exponentially. In fact, never before has the outcome of an election and the fate of the world rested so heavily on our people not in 1940, not 1964.

On the other hand, a Bush victory even a narrow one will aggravate everything to the extreme. This administration needs only an inch of political space on which to impose its domestic agenda and recklessly advance its imperial ambitions.

Of course, Bushs election strategists would prefer to score a decisive, in your face, victory. It is no secret that Karl Roves overweening desire is to effect a fundamental realignment in the country in favor of the right-wing Republicans, much like FDR did to the advantage of the New Dealers in 1936.

After all, the Republicans have momentum, a candidate who appears decisive and enjoys popular support, a grass-roots coalition that will register and get out the vote, tons of money, the advantage of incumbency, a right-wing biased media, and a political atmosphere that favors not rocking the boat.

Moreover, Roves team will use dirty tricks to get back into the White House buying off small slivers of voting constituencies, suppressing the vote and especially the Black vote, legal harassment of it opponents, spreading rumors and lies, and skullduggery, such as the attempt to recall Democratic governor Gray Davis. All this makes Bush and his Congressional counterparts a formidable force.

Much like in 2002, Rove intends to wrap the election debate around the issues of national security and terrorism. A year ago these turned the midterm elections in the Republicans favor. Of course, the Democratic Party gave an assist by yielding to Bush with barely a murmur.

In 2004, some Democrats, including some of the presidential candidates, say they will not cede this ground. But it wont be easy. The American people have to be convinced that Bushs policies of preemption, regime change, militarism and unilateralism are, in fact, endangering our security interests and are ineffective methods of combating the real threat of terrorism.

Making that case a year or so ago to a fearful and insecure public was an uphill battle, but things have changed. First, two wars and two occupations that are turning bloody and costly, no evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and no real progress in apprehending Al Qaedas leaders are eroding Bushs credibility on the edges.

Another factor cutting into Bushs support is growing unease about the erosion of democratic, civil, and constitutional rights, which accounts for the developing movement against Patriot Acts I and II. What people thought would be temporary measures are becoming permanent and institutionalized and this is troubling to many.

Indeed, not since the early fifties have we seen such ominous developments. Yet I dont think that fascism is either here or imminent. Although there are many disturbing measures enacted by the Bush administration that restrict democracy, democratic space still exists and the broad democratic movement must raise the alarm, not retreat and withdraw into a shell. In the late 1940s, we overestimated the fascist danger and from that estimate adopted policies that ceded democratic terrain to the right wing and contributed to our isolation. We dont want to do that again.

A third reason why the gloss on Bush is not as shiny is that the class nature of his policies is becoming more obvious to ordinary people. Finally, the domestic economy isnt yet showing much bounce, which is a huge headache for Rove.

In fact, the economy is experiencing contracting and deflationary pressures and the overhang of debt, excess capacity, and low profitability left over from the bubble economy of the Clinton years are an enormous drag on any recovery. Were the housing bubble to burst, or deflation to take hold, or a run on the dollar to occur, the consequences could be far-reaching.

We should remember how the collapse of the housing sector in Japan triggered an economic crisis and strong deflationary pressures that, despite the governments use of aggressive counter-cyclical measures, left that economy mired in a seemingly intractable state of stagnation.
To make matters worse, the world economy is awash in excess commodities and under utilized production capacity. All this puts fear into the hearts of the Bush re-election strategists and it should.

For joblessness, overall and especially among racially oppressed workers and young people, is growing. Pension plans are collapsing. Homelessness and hunger are increasing. Federal, state, and city budget cuts are causing unspeakable tragedies and strike the communities of the racially oppressed with special force. Service fees and local taxes are skyrocketing. The health care system is in a deep crisis for both the insured and uninsured.

At our national conference on the crisis in health care, we agreed to engage in the many sides, expressions, and levels of this crisis. We also resolved to join with others to search for a national solution to this crisis. In our view, the closest thing that comes to that is the Conyers bill (HR-676). Its not perfect, but it can be amended and strengthened.

Clearly, the situation is very different from when Clinton entered the White House. Major sections of labor recognize that private plans are not a solution, although I would add that any new legislation has to take into account the unions with self-administered benefit plans.

For now, we have to continue to sound out activists in the health care and labor movements, as well as bring our thinking to the broader debate now unfolding in the election arena.

In any event, how the Democrats respond to the economic crisis and the overall strategy of the ultraright is of great consequence. Currently there are differing views within the Democratic Party. There is the Democratic Leadership Council, which constitutes the most right-wing section of the party, and which has dominated its politics for more than a decade. Then there are the centrists and, finally, there is a progressive grouping that is aggressively challenging the positions and electoral strategy of the DLC.

We should not be indifferent to these competing trends nor should we stand aloof from the Democratic primaries. The task of the all-peoples coalition is to bring its weight to bear on both the candidate selection process and on the political debate throughout the election period.

Of course, some will take issue with this approach. They will say that the Democratic Party is as much a capitalist party as is the Republican Party. They will say that we are tailing the Democrats. They will say that we are once again postponing the formation of an independent party in hopes of a victory in November 2004 that they argue will turn out to be hollow.

To this we should answer: yes, the Democratic Party is a party of capitalism and we have no illusions that it will transform itself into an independent peoples party. But it is also true that it includes diverse forces, among them the main sections of the working class and the racially and nationally oppressed.

Second, even if the differences between the two parties are only an inch wide, given the extreme agenda of the Bush administration, a lot can happen on that inch. Finally, a Democratic Party victory will create a much more favorable political terrain on which the developing all-peoples front can fight.

Our policy is based on the concrete political realities existing at this moment. To ignore these realities, to get carried away with our ideological desire and to seem cavalier about the stakes in the 2004 elections, would isolate us from the very forces that will be at the center of any viable alternative political party.

Lenin once wrote, ‘The greatest, perhaps the only danger, to the genuine revolutionary is that of exaggerated revolutionism. Ignoring the limits and conditions in which revolutionary methods are appropriate and can be successfully employed, true revolutionaries have mostly come a cropper when they began to write revolution with a capital R, to elevate revolution to something almost divine, to lose their heads, to lose the ability to reflect, weigh and ascertain in the coolest and most dispassionate manner at what moment, under what circumstances, and in which sphere of action you must act in a revolutionary manner, and at what moment, under what circumstances and in which sphere you must turn to reformist action. True revolutionaries will perish only if they abandon their sober outlook, and take it into their heads that the great victorious world revolution can and must solve all problems in a revolutionary manner, under all circumstances, and in all spheres of action. If they do this, their doom is certain.

We also should not yield to our revolutionism, but instead we have to patiently and creatively find a solution to the struggle for political independence within the context of our political realities.

The struggle for political independence is not an all-or-nothing proposition. To the contrary it is a multisided and multiform process. It goes through stages, but never seamlessly nor straightforwardly.

Over the past two decades we have seen the growth of the forces of political independence that operate both in and outside the Democratic Party. In the context of the 2004 elections, our task is to find the ways to strengthen political independence while at the same time maximizing the struggle against the right.

Political independence can take many forms within the context of the upcoming elections, short of a Nader-type candidacy that would be at loggerheads with our strategic goal of defeating the ultraright. What are some of these forms?

Supporting labor and other independent candidates;

Participating in the political action committees and activities of labor and other independent forces;

Voter registration campaigns targeting the communities of the working class and people of color;

Joining with broader forces and organizations to organize teach-ins, candidate nights, town hall meetings;

Dialogue with leaders and activists of the main organizations of the all-peoples coalition with an eye to building broad unity;

Supporting local independent formations like the Working Families Party in New York and elsewhere;

Joining with others to initiate 2004 election committees at the neighborhood level;

This list isnt by any means exhaustive but without initiatives along these lines, it is hard to imagine how Bush can be beaten. Of course, these can and must be complimented by direct action in the streets. Independent mass political action is the sine qua non of the 2004 elections.

What is our attitude to the Democratic Partys presidential contenders? Briefly, our attitude is to support the most advanced and expose the most backward, like Lieberman, but we should be very flexible and ready to make adjustments at every turn of the primary season.

More importantly, we dont want to construct walls between ourselves and the key social forces that support one or another candidate. The main thing for the moment is to do what labor is doing influencing the debate and pressuring the candidates on issues.

A candidates position on Iraq should not be a litmus test. If we took that to an extreme we might find ourselves supporting only Rep. Barbara Lee. More important is the candidates attitude from now on with regard to preemptive war, nuclear testing, research on new weapons of mass destruction, and so forth.

As for Communist candidates: we should run but only where we are part of a larger election coalition. Purely agitation campaigns dont fit this moment. Given our size and resources, our strategic policy and the wide-open possibilities for being part of the larger movement, they would be counterproductive.

Unity

Whether the all-peoples front is able to win next year depends not only on the breadth and depth of the movement but also its unity. Unity is the cornerstone of a winning struggle. Without unity Bush wins game, set, match.

The struggle for unity has many sides and aspects. While there are objective pressures towards unity, there are also pressures that foster division. Unity has to be struggled for consciously, constructively and patiently.

In the struggle for unity the broader class and democratic demands have to be combined with the specific demands of specific sectors. In this connection, the demands for racial and gender equality have to figure higher on labors agenda.

When they arent, the possible consequences are serious. Indeed, they imperil the struggle for unity and jeopardize the broader anti-Bush front in 2004. Racially oppressed and women workers have been on the front lines of labor revitalization process and a powerful force against the extreme right in the election process and, thus, should be treated accordingly.

Having said this, I would quickly add that the struggle for unity takes place on a higher ground today in the labor and peoples movement. In part, this is the product of a movement that has been growing and maturing for nearly two decades. It is also because of the across-the-board assault of the Bush policies and the compelling need for unity that follows.

Everywhere we see a growing coalescence of issues and sectors of the peoples movement. Streams of struggle are merging and making each others concerns and battles their own.

The examples are numerous, but let me mention just a few: the interaction of forces and issues in the peace struggle; the kaleidoscope of support for affirmative action; the victorious Los Angeles City Council victories of Antonio Villaraigosa and Martin Ludlow, one Mexican American, the other African American, and both trade union leaders; the agreement on sustainable economics by labor and environmental organizations; NOWs new militancy and activism on a range of struggles beyond traditional womens issues; the broad solidarity that developed for the West Coast longshore workers and New York Citys transit workers; and the new relations between labor and the youth and student movement.

Here in New York City on June 23 thousands of people demonstrated against George W. Bush at a rally initiated by Planned Parenthood and joined by United for Peace and Justice, labor and others.

As we get closer to 2004, we will see the further merging of many forces into the anti-Bush movement. Of special importance is the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride, initiated by the hotel workers union, HERE, and now sponsored by large sections of the labor movement and the immigrant community.

The Freedom Ride reflects the sea change that has occurred in the attitudes of the working class and people toward immigrants and their struggle. Important sections of the labor movement have gone from seeing immigrant workers as competitors to seeing them as brothers and sisters. In no small measure this is traceable to the militancy and trade union consciousness that immigrant workers themselves bring to the workplace and organizing drives, as well as being a product of the revitalized labor movements new focus on organizing.

The Freedom Ride caravans will depart in September from nine cities, stop in Washington DC for mass lobbying and then wind up in New York City for a demonstration. Brian McLaughlin, president of the citys central labor council and a state assemblyman, who also chairs the NYC Freedom Ride committee, is predicting a crowd of least 300,000 people on Oct. 4. Along the way there will be activities in many cities and towns to bring attention to the main demands of the march, namely legal status of undocumented immigrants, family reunification and immigrant workers rights on the job.

The Freedom Ride sees itself as continuing the tradition of the Freedom Rides of the 1960s, which were instrumental in dismantling Jim Crow racism and breathing new democratic life into our country.

Similarly, this Freedom Ride can give a new impulse to the fight for democracy and against the extreme right wing, as well as secure elementary rights for immigrant workers and their families. Along with the anti-FTAA demonstration in Miami in the fall and the reproductive rights march next April in Washington, these actions will give power, confidence, and momentum to the movement to defeat Bush.

So far the CPUSA and YCL are participants in several of the local committees. Every district can get involved in one way or another. The Peoples Weekly World will be bringing weekly coverage as the ride progresses to Washington and New York.

Affirmative action decision

The Supreme Courts decision in mid-June to reaffirm affirmative action as a legitimate concept and practice was a victory for equality and fairness. It was a victory for democracy, multiracial unity and our nation.

It was a victory for a movement that garnered broad and diverse support, stretching from the University of Michigans campus to the seats of corporate power and the Pentagon. Students, especially Black and Brown students energized this movement.

Was it an unalloyed and unambiguous triumph? Should it give democratic minded people reason to think that affirmative action is finally secure from the nearly relentless attack of the extreme right wing in our country? The answer is clearly no.

Yet, nearly unanimously the main organizations of the peoples movement, which have organized grassroots support for affirmative action over the last decade, hailed the courts decision. They did so knowing full well that the margin of victory was ever so narrow and that what the Court gave with one hand, it partially took back with the other.

But they are also aware of the undeniable fact that the movement for affirmative action is up against more than just a conservative court. A full-throttle right-wing movement that vigorously opposes any steps, however small, in the direction of racial equality has been spreading racist ideological poison and chipping away at affirmative action for nearly 30 years. It is well financed, enjoys a considerable presence in the mass media, and has a patron in the White House who fervently shares its views.

In fact, for some time the Bush administration has been quietly undermining racial equality. Through its power of regulation, litigation, and budgetary funding, it is systematically dismantling the scaffolding and substance of equality.

But in filing briefs that declare affirmative action illegal, the racial attitudes and practices of the Bush administration are tellingly revealed for all to see. Of course, administration spokespeople are trying to backtrack, saying the president welcomes diversity, but no one is going to be fooled by this sleight of hand.

On the other hand, Bushs ultra-right supporters, who dont have his reelection worries, have reacted with a fury that is sobering. Bristling with uncontrolled anger, they are not only pledging to continue their assault on affirmative action, but also are insisting that the next Supreme Court nominee possess a resume of opposition to affirmative action not to mention abortion and gay rights. Needless to say, the struggle will continue, but it will continue on much more favorable terrain despite the split decision.

Over the next 15 months, our nation will elect a new president and Congress and probably name a new member to the Supreme Court. These decisions will have an inestimable bearing on the struggle for affirmative action and equality. This realization should compel us to celebrate this victory by working to expand affirmative action in every area of life.

Attacks on equality measures and affirmative action are at the epicenter of the ultra-right offensive. It demands the most vigorous rebuff, beginning with the defeat of the ultraright in the elections and Bushs nominees to the federal court.

Slavery split our nation, distorted the class struggle and our democracy, and left unfinished our first revolution. So too the blight of racism, buried deep in the fabric of our national life, will eat away at our democratic institutions and the democratic rights of every American if it isnt vigorously contested.

In another historic decision, the Supreme Court left no ambiguity. The sweeping 6-3 ruling in favor of liberties for gay men and women went much further than anyone expected. It was a landmark ruling that recognizes the dignity and privacy rights of gay people. Such a ruling was long overdue.

The Communist Party

Our role in the coming period is to be neck deep in the main struggles of our class and people. We want to be in the midst of millions of people and their organizations whose agenda, first and foremost, is to defeat Bush and the right-wing Republicans in next years election.

We dont have to invent struggles, but rather our role is to be on the ground floor where many struggles are taking place. One of our partys distinguishing features is our accent on broad coalitions and politics. We arent a big party, but we dont think small.

At this moment we need broad and flexible tactics. We need tactics that deepen our relations to the left and center forces in the labor movement and elsewhere. We need tactics that make us better fighters for equality and multiracial unity. We need tactics that mobilize grass-roots actions. We need tactics that build unity in every struggle, but especially in the electoral arena.

In this period, every communist and every club has to be a coalition joiner and builder. There is practically nothing that we have to do alone. In most places, the doors of the main mass organizations of the working class and people are open to our participation; similarly we should open our own doors and bring our image and political style of work into line with todays realities.

We are, as I mentioned, living in perilous times. Trying to give myself some historical perspective, I waded back to the ante-bellum South to find it.

Slave power was entrenched in the federal government and, Im sure, it wasnt a certainty for the Black and white abolitionists that freedom would some day ring in the South. Indeed, there must have been moments when they felt that the tide was moving against them and that the entire nation would be engulfed by the ghastly system of slavery that turned human beings into property and disfigured our country and its ideals.

Nevertheless, this courageous group of human beings faced the challenges of their times with unyielding courage and mightily helped to bring down slave power in the course of a bloody war in which Black and white union soldiers went off to battle singing, God died to make men holy, let us die to make men free.

Of course, circumstances are much different today and all analogies suffer, and yet it is fair to say that the most conservative forces are again in control of the federal government and are determined to extinguish liberty and endanger humanity.

A broad labor-based all-peoples coalition is emerging to challenge these right-wing zealots just as a broad anti-slavery coalition did back then. We know which side we are on in this momentous battle and we are confident that the people of our beautiful country with its spacious skies will prevail just as the anti-slavery movement prevailed over slave power long ago.

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