Convention Discussion: For a socialist coalition

BY: Rick Nagin| June 2, 2014

Submitted by Rick Nagin, Cleveland, OH

According to repeated public surveys by every major polling organization, support for socialism has achieved massive proportions in the United States. This is a relatively new phenomenon brought about by the acute economic, political and environmental crisis and the vast chasm in income and wealth distribution that have greatly discredited capitalism. At the same time all the solutions that Americans want and need -whether it is raising wages, union rights, government jobs programs, universal health care, quality public education, election or tax reform – are defined by the ultra-right as “socialist.”

The problem is there is currently no party or organization with the authority, mass base, resources and organizational network capable of giving effective leadership to realize the enormous political potential of this sentiment.  The magnitude of the challenge was clearly shown by the Pew poll which found that a majority of major demographic groups including African Americans, youth 18-29 and liberal Democrats had a positive attitude toward socialism and a negative attitude toward capitalism,  Other groups, including Hispanics and lower income people were not far behind.  We are talking about tens of millions of Americans. Reaching and organizing them into a meaningful political force should be the top priority for all, including our Party, seeking to build a socialist movement and a solution to the deepening capitalist crisis.

I don’t believe we can do it alone, but I do think it can be achieved through a broad, creative, flexible and principled alliance with like-minded organizations and individuals.  There are  two fundamental principles that should be the basis for such an alliance.  First, that the building of a broad democratic movement to defeat right wing extremism is the urgent and immediate task And second, a commitment to the goal of building a modern 21st century socialist society based on the struggles, demands and democratic traditions of the American people.  These principles have, for some time, defined the outlook of our Party, but, I believe, based on relationships we have had, as well as the public polls, these principles are widely shared by other groups, leaders and active members of unions and key progressive mass organizations.  

Exploratory discussions with these groups and leaders should begin immediately after our national convention. I think the first stage would be to establish an alliance in which existing organizations and parties  keep their independence and provide time for developing trust and common programs of action including in the electoral arena.    The alliance should of course also choose a name that would reflect its two founding principles.  Here’s one suggestion: United Socialists of America – USA.

The alliance could develop closer organizational ties (e.g. common commissions and action coalitions).  Eventually there could be a founding conference or convention and possibly even merger.

I believe the proposal for such an alliance addresses the concerns of both those who have advocated changing our Party’s name as well as those who have felt that by itself this would not significantly alter our size and influence and, in fact, might have a negative or liquidationist  impact.

There are many important historical precedents in the working class and Communist movement for such an alliance.  These include the Chilean Popular Unity Coalition, the Israeli Hadash front, the ANC alliance in South Africa and the Socialist Unity Party in the German Democratic Republic.  Lenin’s initial government in Soviet Russia was a coalition of parties.  There are relevant positive and negative lessons that can be taken from all these experiences but clearly a 21st century socialist alliance in our country would have its own unique features.

The views and opinions expressed in the Convention Discussion are those of the author alone. The Communist Party is publishing these views as a service to encourage discussion and debate. Those views do not necessarily reflect the views of the Communist Party, its leading bodies or staff members. The CPUSA Constitution, Program, and all its existing policies remain in effect during the Convention discussion period and during the Convention.

For details about the convention, visit the Convention homepage
To contribute to the discussion, visit the Convention Discussion webpage

30th National Convention, Communist Party USA
Chicago | June 13-15, 2014


    Rick Nagin, Ohio correspondent for the People's World, has written for the paper and its predecessors since 1970. He has been active for many years in Cleveland politics and the labor movement.

    He helped elect Cleveland's first Hispanic city councilman and served as his Executive Assistant for over seven years. Rick has run for public office a number of times and received 45 percent of the vote in a race for City Council in 2009.  He is the Democratic Leader in Cleveland Ward 14 and serves on the County Democratic Party Executive Committee.

    A member of The Newspaper Guild, Communications Workers of America, he is a delegate to the North Shore AFL-CIO Federation of Labor and serves on its Political Coordinators and Labor Day Parade committees. He is on the Executive Board of the Greater Cleveland Labor Council for Latin American Advancement and represents the People's World on the steering committee of Cleveland Jobs With Justice.




Comments (4)

E.E.W. Clay | June 18, 2014 at 5:36 PM

Such a program of socialist coalition, unity and struggle, would be welcomed if it did not compromise the “wide angle” or “wide net” approach of the communists-(appreciated is your reference to Lenin’s coalition) which our recent history seems to say we are all too willing to give up- in the name of “unity”.
The communists naturally unite. The communists unite the working class forces and peoples, based on the needs (economic) of peoples, based on broadening democracy, putting democracy on an economic footing:
*Strengthening integrative economic immigrant labor rights with amnesty and fast track citizenry
*Challenging anti-democratic laws like Citizens United
*Strengthening collective bargaining and unionization
*Eliminating sexist and racist wage differentials with North/South differentials(and regional wage differentials)
*Strengthening and expanding laws like the Wagner Act
*Creating revolutionary law to correct past discrimination and racism against oppressed groups and victims of genocide
*Creating mechanisms to protect youth and the elderly in job protection and retirement
*Strengthening Social Security and Unemployment Insurance
*Fighting for cradle to grave universal, one payer government (federal government paid) health care
*Conversion from a war to peace economy
*Conversion from a ecologically destructive economy to a ecologically sustainable, life and earth safe restorative economy
*Helping the economic condition of the poor

This kind of struggle, with root economic issues of the poor, and working class poor, like that which M L K was fighting for at the time of his assassination (he was also fighting for a closer relationship with Communist and the Communist Party U. S. A.),
could be a very big benefit for the working class, U. S. A.

Ian M. | June 09, 2014 at 4:25 PM

I agree with Comrade Nagin that we need something like a socialist coalition in the US. It is a project that the CPUSA is, in fact, well suited to participate in.

However, it must be remembered that such a coalition needs to be an intermediate organization which takes advantage of various groups’ and individuals’ strengths. It mustn’t become merely a mass “voting bloc”(which, as Comrade Lane has stated, has a poor success record) or a mere “front” for the CPUSA.

Many Left-wing groups have already begun finding ways of organizing together on the basis of principled unity, where groups maintain their own positions and autonomy but pool their resources on certain mass political projects. Projects such as One Struggle in Florida (and NY?) have already begun to have some success mobilizing across Left-wing bases. I have reason to believe that such a strategy will only become more useful as the majority of USAmerican people left-of-center become increasingly disillusioned with the mainstream Left.

In Solidarity,
Ian McTeague
John S. Reed Club, CP of Oregon

jim lane | June 08, 2014 at 7:26 PM

I think it’s a good idea that might work in some areas better than others. I think it calls for strategic planning in different areas of the country.

I recently saw a figure on the vote gained in the 1948 nationwide third-party campaign that communists supported. It wasn’t encouraging. I doubt if a nation-wide orientation as suggested here would do better.

Margaret Baldridge | June 05, 2014 at 8:30 AM

Rick Nagin’s suggestion of putting our energies into building some form of Socialist Alliance USA makes a lot of sense to me. Creating such a coalition would allow us to keep our strongly-felt Communist identity/ ideology/history while recognizing the need to take “a wide-angled approach to the class struggle,” as Sam puts it.
It is appealing to think of us having an outward ideological focus, joining with Socialist-minded forces to fight for socialist principles, rather than wrangling inwardly among ourselves. I suspect that most CP members take a “both-and” rather than an “either-or” position towards the issue.

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