The Communist Party USA and the 2004 Elections: Build the Party, Build the Coalitions

Report to the National Committee, November 21, 2004

Sams great dialectical report gives the framework to analyze the election as a whole. The purpose of this report is to zero in on the work of our Party in the elections.

Our banner for 2004 was Build Unity Defeat Bush and the Ultra-Right. Our method was an all-out effort with the broad labor-led democratic front against extreme right-wing reaction; and within that all-out for a bigger, stronger Communist Party and YCL.

Along with our allies, we can be very proud of great accomplishments that will carry us forth even in the dreaded and stormy waters of a second term for George W. Bush.

As Communists, we experienced, we saw, we knew the brutality of this crowd poised to rip any chance for a decent job, decent healthcare, decent retirement, or decent education from working class people; prepared to wage war on Iraq and the world for hegemony and control; armed with the poison of racism and bigotry and red-baiting meant to serve the fatal blow to any opposition.

History had taught us that to reverse this extreme reaction would take the broadest possible coalition of left and center forces with the strength of labor, African American, Latino and women at the core. We also understood that building the Communist Party as part of that effort would be the best way to secure the movement for the future, toward a more advanced program.

The correctness of the center-left coalition strategy soon became clear as a fantastic movement burst forth, activating many thousands of young people, and people of all ages who had never previously been engaged. New labor and peoples structures were the heart of the voter mobilization and turnout in this election.

When this movement came so close but not close enough on election day, union after union and organization after organization immediately rejected Bushs claim to mandate and pledged to stick together, to build on what was done, to learn and broaden out, even in an unwanted and dangerous terrain of struggle.

Our strategy, and tactics adjusted to changing conditions, enabled our small Party to make a mighty contribution in this remarkable time. This years experience leaves us with new respect, new clubs in strategic locations, a growing grass-roots character, and hopefully somewhat better seasoned for the next phase of our countrys titanic battle.

Just about a year ago, at a meeting in Cleveland, Ohio with neighboring Communist Party districts, the concept of a national election concentration on the mid-west was developed.

Two months later, on January 31, in this hall, we held an extraordinary national conference which established our framework for the 2004 elections.

The conference was extraordinary because of the turnout of 250 plus multi-racial, multi-national activists from states large and small across our land. It was extraordinary because of the message of leaders from other organizations who came and called upon us, that our presence was much needed as Communists.

Remember the president of NY NOW telling us she wanted to see lots of red flags at the March for Womens Lives. And the chair of ACORN and Working Families Party who called upon us as family to make our contribution known. Did we respond? YES, we responded!

Across the country, we rolled up our sleeves, in swing states and so-called safe states. In voter registration drives, local races and Congressional battlegrounds. Walking precincts and working phone banks out of union halls. In presidential battleground states from Ohio, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to Minnesota and New Hampshire, our folks were quickly tapped to help lead the work.

Mid-West Project

The centerpiece of our effort was the Mid-West Project, under the leadership of Scott Marshall and John Rummel. We knew that between OH, MO and FL, Kerry had to win at least one to get elected. We singled out OH and MO for summer brigades. The comrades in those states did heroic work hosting, organizing, and meeting the needs of the 75 Party and YCLers who came for week-long visits from nine states and the national office in July and August.

We worked on local campaigns, knocked on hundreds of doors and made thousands of phone calls with the AFL-CIO, ACT and others. We learned a lot and hopefully convinced some voters. I will always remember the LTV steel workers whose jobs had gone, very angry, very worried and also very appreciative that Labor Council volunteers were at their door.

In Missouri, comrades had the remarkable experience of teaming up with SEIU and Planned Parenthood to door-knock in the heat and humidity campaigning for John Bowman, and then go on to win. It felt like Mississippi Summer in the 1960's.

The effort was so successful we expanded into the fall, with 72 more Party and YCLers, including 47 to Ohio and teams to Florida, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Michigan, and New Hampshire.

We set the bar high with our goal of 100. In the end, over 147 participated. These numbers do not include union buses organized by comrades from Illinois to Wisconsin, Ohio and Missouri, and the many Party and YCL members who traveled to the Mid-West with union or other mobilizations from the East Coast states.

It must be brought out that Sam Webb took the summer and fall to travel continuously from battleground state to battleground state, meeting with districts and clubs, shoring up the Party, outreaching to friends and readers, and knocking on doors as a volunteer for the labor movement.

We developed a specific plan for election day, with national staff placed strategically in OH, FL, PA and WI, and regional efforts in AZ and NH. We helped bring voters to the polls, served as election protection observers, and just did whatever needed to be done.

The YCL did a fabulous job, with great energy and talent, connecting to youth organizing in the battlegrounds and attracting lots of young people to their ranks. In addition to mobilizing their members in the summer, the YCL staff worked on two campuses in Ohio to Get Out the Vote. They deserve a great big congratulations for their excellent contribution.

From the beginning, Ohio was at the epicenter of this election campaign, and the final results will be examined and discussed for some time. Wally will report, but it must be said that the Party there, as in Missouri, did yeomans work at every level and made a deep and abiding contribution recognized by the broader movement and that we pay tribute to today.

In the OH District Board report Wally emphasized In Ohio, where 150,000 union jobs were eliminated since 2000, union members STILL MADE UP 35% OF ALL VOTES CAST IN THE STATE. He said, the organization of independent political structure within the trade unions went beyond anything ever done in the past, and provides the base for future struggles.

We emerge from this campaign with new respect, but also with new members and new clubs. Our Party is growing and building in the heartland, transforming our entire organization. We will learn more from the districts, but here are a few highlights that were sent in to me:

MO: State Rep. During the campaign to elect a worker as State Representative: A new club in St. Louis, with another in formation. A new YCL club and another by the end of the year. A total of 19 new members in the YCL and Party. An increase from 2 to 12 bundles of PWW/NM a week. MI: A new club in Saginaw emerged from a national/district team that helped on a local campaign which elected a township trustee. A new club in the Upper Peninsula formed after a visit by Sam. New clubs in Lansing and Ann Arbor will be formed by the end of the year. ILL: 27 new members and an increase in PWW/NM bundles to 2500 a week. This in the process of participating in the movement from Illinois to Wisconsin to put that state over the top for Kerry, participating in the historic election of Barak Obama to the US Senate, and the successful campaign of Melissa Bean, defeating incumbent Republican Congressman Philip Crane.

Budget expenditures for the Mid West Project came to $45,334.51. This does not include many contributions made in-kind to house, feed and transport comrades. Overall, this was a budget item strategically conceived that couldnt have been better spent.

Local campaigns

Of course, our work was not limited to the presidential battleground states. In every district, the Party organization was engaged in voter registration, and in key local and Congressional campaigns. We probably registered tens of thousands of voters. Some highlights sent in:

In New York, the Party made a special contribution, participating with the Working Families Party campaign to elect Frank Barbaro to Congress. 120,000 people voted for John Kerry on the Working Families line; David Soares became the first African American elected to county wide office upstate, for Albany District Attorney; and Brian Higgins defeated a Republican incumbent for Congress in the Buffalo area. In Connecticut, a new club and door-to-door PWW route was formed in the 2nd Congressional District as part of a hard fought effort to defeat a Republican incumbent. 66 Working Families Party candidates won minor party ballot status in State Legislature and State Senate districts, including two who are here today. In New Jersey comrades campaigned with a candidate for Town Committee, located in an important swing Congressional District. She got 42% of the vote in a small Republican town where the Republican candidate was the Mayor. She has now been asked to run for School Board. In Florida, where Noel participated in the bus tour across the state to raise the minimum wage, and in Nevada, voters overwhelmingly favored a $1 increase to $6.15 an hour. In New Mexico, new friends in the labor movement work with the club, which helped initiate the Bush Out the Door campaign, and the election of a state legislator. In Kentucky, a new club was formed for the first time in many years.

In addition to the countless marches, rallies, meetings and events at the local level, our Party was represented in the swirl of national conferences and protests that took place in the months leading up to election day: March for Womens Lives Take Back America Rainbow/PUSH La Raza NAACP Union conventions including AFSCME, SEIU, Unity convention of UNITE HERE, NEA MoveOn house parties Events surrounding the Democrat and Republican conventions The World Says No to the Bush Agenda protest of half a million in NYC.

Press and Literature

Throughout the year, the PWW/NM performed the magnificent role of a weekly election broadside. The paper rallied readers to become engaged by connecting the war on Iraq to peoples needs at home, exposing the lies and manipulations of the Bush team, and telling first-hand of the needs, concerns and involvement of ordinary working people in the battlegrounds of Ohio, Missouri, Minnesota , Wisconsin and New Mexico.

The Special Labor Day edition had an additional press run of 10,000. For the Special Election edition, additional orders exceeded 23,000.

While the PWW/NM subs and bundles have increased somewhat, the staff is preparing a special meeting to develop plans for a dramatic rise in circulation.

The YCL summer and fall election editions of Dynamic, of 2,000 each, highlighted the impact of Bush policies on youth, and the experiences of young people working to get out the vote.

We published a body of election literature reflecting the tactical shifts as the campaign unfolded: Build Unity, Defeat Bush, the opening report to our January election conference 20,000, also a 7 minute video. What We Need Today A Program for Working People, the Communist Party USA Platform for the 2004 elections (bi-lingual) was very enthusiastically received 15,000 Top 10 Reasons to Defeat Bush and Change Congress (English and Spanish) 30,000 Just Being Anti-Bush Is Not Enough to Win by Sam Webb mailed and posted on the web, calling upon those on the left who were standing aloof to become active in the movement to elect Kerry. The Republican Campaign to Suppress the Black Vote: A Racist Conspiracy by Jarvis Tyner, published by Political Affairs 3,000. Produced beautifully, distributed on the internet, very relevant in the continuing struggles to democratize the election process. Why Latinos Want to Dump Bush (bilingual), from Political Affairs election edition, mailed and on the web, important in light of attempts to distort the Mexican American and Latino vote.

In addition, two pamphlets were published in October for circulation beyond the elections: Medicare for All, published by the Peoples Weekly World People and Nature before Profits Build the Party. Build the coalition.

The goal to build the Party in the midst of building the broad united front was a very big challenge for us. There was some skepticism that we would simply get immersed in the coalition as individuals and the importance of the Party organization would get lost.

What actually happened tells a different story. The correctness of our strategy and the passion with which we carried out our work is exactly what has swelled our ranks.

Out of our work to build this left-center coalition, we are becoming a grass roots Party and YCL. Clubs rooted in the grass roots have the potential to transform our Party into a large, mass organization able to mobilize and influence events on a large scale.

Like the woman on the Peoples Weekly World route in semi-rural Vernon, Connecticut, who thanked us for bringing the best paper Ive ever read in my life, many are open to our ideas and ready to become engaged.

To guarantee the future of the coalition, a larger Party is needed. Thats the historic challenge for us today, especially in the face of a second Bush regime.

At a recent meeting Sam said, If we were four times larger, imagine what we could have done in Ohio. What the recruitment of new members in this campaign tells us is that with consistent attention and allocation of resources we can make such a breakthrough by the next presidential election.

The national Party organization truly arose to the occasion. The Organizing Department worked night and day in the office and on the road; the Political Action Commission forged a strong collective and was fully engaged, meeting twice monthly with regular reports to the National Board.

Now the challenge is how to continue to allocate our resources to help districts build strong, grass roots clubs. Help on the ground should continue into districts like Michigan and Missouri with the goal of securing and expanding their new clubs.

To fully make the turn as a grass-roots Party will take lots of attention to the clubs in every district, to list and think through person by person how to develop closer relations with each new contact, how they will get the PWW every week, how will there will be regular discussion, should they be invited to a club meeting, what action to involve new contacts in?

Keeping the coalition together and broadening it with attention to small towns and rural areas will depend a lot on local issues of struggle. For example Ohio is discussing a possible ballot referendum to raise the minimum wage, and reviving the four million member coalition that won the Ohio Prescription Drug law.

In most states, January opens a new legislative session, with fierce battles over budget deficits, and more cuts to vital services. Coalitions to win progressive policies at the state level can help build the base for change nationally.

The 2005 municipal elections are already before us. Fielding candidates from labor and peoples organizations including our own will be important to resist the far-right agenda. The national election results created an atmosphere for increased racism and bigotry. No victories will be won without broad organizing for equality. We have to strengthen the struggle for working class, progressive and humanist ideas.

Our Party must be a leader in the growing movement to democratize the election process, that every vote be able to be cast and counted correctly without harassment, intimidation or suppression. We should draw a line in the sand for a complete overhaul of election law including: same day voter registration, restoration of voting rights, verifiable paper trail on all electronic machines, instant runoff voting, publically financed elections, regulation of corporate media and abolition of the electoral college.

The broad movement is called upon to build pressure from the ground on Congress, working with the Progressive, Black and Hispanic caucuses, outreaching to moderate Republicans where possible to end the war and occupation of Iraq, and on every item from saving social security to tax and budget policy and judicial appointments.

To the extent possible, movements around the bills we prioritized this year will continue: the Employee Free Choice Act; HR 676 Medicare for All; the SOLVE Act; Voter Accountability; and the investigation into Abu Graib HR 690.

Our Vision

At our conference in January, Jarvis Tyner said, The fight for democracy and freedom is not a diversion from the fight for a new system. You cant have one without the other. We are not hesitant when it comes to meeting todays challenge.

The center-left coalition strategy to defeat the extreme right-wing is not a step back from the class struggle. It is a necessary alliance if the working class is to protect its interests and achieve further gains.

Those who are joining our Party have come to understand that their problems cannot be solved within capitalism. They are both angry and hopeful. Coming up on our Convention, we have the opportunity and responsibility to capture and build on that potential which can turn our country around.

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