DC CPUSA demands home rule, democracy, and people before profits

BY:DC Metro Club CPUSA| April 5, 2024
DC CPUSA demands home rule, democracy, and people before profits


This piece is a contribution to the Pre-Convention Discussion for our 32nd National Convention. During Pre-Convention Discussion, all aspects of the party’s program, strategy, and tactics are up for consideration and debate. The ideas presented here are those of the author or authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Communist Party USA, its membership, or their elected leadership bodies. — Editors

Editor’s Note: Main report presented to the Washington DC CPUSA District Convention on March 30, 2024 by the District leadership.

Democracy in the District of Columbia, and in particular, Home Rule, is under severe attack. Not only are we in a crisis similar to the Control Board period of the late 1990s, but we face the rise of a potential fascist government in the White House coming in 2025. Since the Republican-led Congressional repeal of the Revised Criminal Code Act of 2022, the District has been under constant attack from extreme right forces within the federal government for supposedly not being sufficiently “tough on crime.” The Revised Criminal Code attempted to bring DC’s legal structures into the 20th century. The DC Criminal Code Reform Commission found “The District’s current criminal code has not undergone a comprehensive revision since its creation by Congress in 1901. It still uses a 19th century structure that relies heavily on court opinions to articulate the requirements for criminal liability. The District’s current criminal code stands in sharp contrast to most other U.S. jurisdictions.”

Prior to the repeal of the criminal code, Mayor Muriel Bowser had decided to not lobby against the anti-DC, Republican-led resolutions in Congress that were attacking locally-passed laws like the updated criminal code and the right to vote for noncitizen residents in municipal elections. Bowser caved under the pressure of the monopoly-backed Washington Post and other reactionary forces that were undermining DC’s right to govern itself. The President of the United States wound up not using his veto power and joined the extreme right Republicans and the corporate Democrats that believe DC needs federal oversight and colonial-like control.

This onslaught on democracy in the District of Columbia led to the formation of the #HandsOffDC Coalition, which is a broad and mass-based coalition fighting to defend DC’s right to govern itself. Several demonstrations and packed hearings were organized on Capitol Hill by local DC residents demanding that US Congressmembers stay out of local DC politics. This revitalized energy around defending democracy in DC has the potential to develop into a mass movement for DC Statehood.

In the midst of these attacks, some progress on the international scale took place. A resolution calling for an end to the US criminal blockade against Cuba and to remove the country from the State Sponsors of Terrorism List was passed by the DC Council, led by At-Large (D) Councilmember Robert White, who was a previous progressive challenger to Mayor Bowser in 2022. This resolution joined 80 other US municipalities in calling for a normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States. Our party, in coalition with the National Network on Cuba, the Democratic Socialists of America, and CODEPINK, played a major role in getting this across the finish line this past May.

Another progressive bill, Initiative 82, passed through a citizen-led ballot initiative in 2022, eliminated the tipped minimum wage for tipped workers in DC and required the standard minimum wage. This bill is under attack by the big restaurant industry in alignment with more conservative councilmembers. The attacks particularly surfaced around the confusing “service charge” fees that were cosplaying as tips for the workers, but were actually going back to the employer. Along with this, Councilmembers McDuffie, Mendelson, and Allen have tried to fast-track and pass bills that will cause more disarray since the passage of Initiative 82. This led to a worker-led campaign launch of Fair Price Fair Wage, which is fighting for the full implementation of the Initiative 82 law and against any undermining of it. The local party in DC and Claudia Jones School have endorsed and participated in this campaign.

There is a petty crime crisis in DC, particularly among youth. The response by the DC government has been to criminalize youth, led by the Mayor, Police Union, and Ward 2 councilmember Brooke Pinto. Returning to the “tough on crime” policies of the 1990s will not stop crime nor curb violence. What needs to be done is to fully fund the Department of Parks & Recreation and expand its programs for youth, including the renovation and expansion of infrastructure throughout the city. Furthermore, DC needs to fully finance programs that will combat childhood poverty, given that it has one of the worst statistics in the country. That means it needs a strong child tax credit, and to fully fund its social services programs like TANF. The District leadership also needs to invest more deeply in its public housing units and expand them, as well as experiment with social housing and Green New Deal programs locally to not only provide truly affordable housing but to also give jobs to youth and to move toward full employment for all. Passage of Socialist Councilwoman Janeese Lewis-George’s bills, which will eliminate lead pipes in DC and build green infrastructure that will combat the climate crisis that affects our city and the entire world, should be a priority for our party. Just this past January, youth in DC affiliated with the Sunrise Movement, urged the DC State Board of Education to pass a “Green New Deal for Public Schools” which includes free school lunches for students, implementing a climate justice curriculum, requiring school transportation vehicles to run on renewable energy, and developing citywide plans to deal with climate disasters. The District needs to fully fund the Marion Barry Summer Employment Program for youth. The DC government also needs to take all the steps necessary to make Metro completely free and stop criminalizing fare evasion. These types of efforts would truly combat crime in the District, and obviously we need Statehood to have complete control over our laws and budget without Congressional interference.

Everything changed once the events of October 7 took place. The global balance of forces that had been shifting since the beginning of the Russian-Ukraine War in 2022, took a sharper turn when Hamas carried out an attack on Southern Israel. We do not condone the killing of innocent civilians, regardless if this is a question of a colonized people fighting an occupying force. But, we do recognize the 75+ years of ongoing colonial violence against the Palestinian people which gave rise to the conditions which led to October 7. The Israeli government’s response since those events, have been catastrophic, leading to the deaths of over 32,000 Palestinians in Gaza, with over 70% of that toll being women and children. The Israeli government, in tandem with fascist settlers, have been blocking humanitarian aid trying to reach the Gaza strip which has led to a famine in Northern Gaza, killing children and the elderly who are malnourished.

In response, the movement for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza has taken hold throughout the country and the world. In DC specifically, we have been home to the largests demonstrations in US history in solidarity with the Palestinian people. And, given our geographical location next to federal institutions, demonstrations have been happening regularly at the homes of Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and others. Several Biden-Harris campaign events have been disrupted in the area, as well as a major blockade that took place during the State of the Union Address in early March.

Locally, our club has been heavily involved with efforts to get the DC Council to introduce a resolution calling for a ceasefire. This was in response to the Council building being lit in the Israeli flag colors for nearly 40 days, and the Council hosting a briefing with the Israeli Embassy. Local Palestinian and Jewish residents organized a coalition that demanded the Council to meet with its Palestinian constituents and to pass a resolution demanding a ceasefire. To date, the Council has yet to budge on this issue and the tactics have escalated to regular disruptions at Council hearings and meetings until they listen to their community’s demands. We must not stop until we win a ceasefire resolution, which will give us the basis and leverage in DC to not only build a sustainable peace movement, but to fight for bigger demands around the Palestinian issue – like divestment and boycott.

The elections have begun to take shape as well, with the onset of 2024 and the rematch bejtween Biden and Trump on a national scale. This is again a fight to keep the MAGA fascists from having a full federal takeover of our government. Yes, Biden is a bourgeois Democrat and functions as a ruling class candidate. But this isn’t a question of an individual, it is a question of defending what is bourgeois democracy to have more avenues to struggle versus a fascist dictatorship with no avenues of struggle, which is what the forces around Trump represent in Project 2025 and beyond. We must win an immediate and permanent ceasefire, or we will surely miss democracy when it’s gone.

So, What is our role locally? How do we as a party have influence in local elections? And how are we struggling for political power within the realities of the two-party system?

Well, first, there is a direct threat to democracy here where extreme right interests outside of DC are meddling in local affairs. The forces who were behind the dismantling of the criminal code, the passage of the emergency crime bill in summer of 2023 and the omnibus crime bill led by Brooke Pinto in 2024, are now leading recall campaigns against two progressive councilmembers. One being councilmember Charles Allen of Ward 6 and councilmember Brianne Nadeau of Ward 1. What role do we play in these recall campaigns? Do we sit them out?

Or do we defend the progressive members from the Republican attacks? These are tactical questions going into November. Until then, we continue to fight for a ceasefire, we build infrastructure to have influence over the candidate process by organizing questionnaires and candidates forums in partnership with local organizations, and we continue building relationships in the community to show our unity, strength, and leadership on these questions. These will lay the basis not only for party influence in these communities, but the potential for concentrated clubs to be built in neighborhoods, and for political leadership to form out of these clubs and run for independent political office. We need Communists in the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions’s, in the school boards, in the commission on human rights, on the library board, etc. These positions will build momentum for a city council run.

The Mayor is also on the verge of releasing her budget proposal for DC. Given the fiasco at the beginning of the year when the Mayor’s Office slashed funding a disbursement for SNAP recipients in DC, where she eventually reversed course after massive pressure, the Mayor is on track to make some serious budget cuts for FY25. Not only are rumors surfacing for major cuts to DCPS and other major institutions in DC, but across-the-board budget cuts up toward $1 billion, which could have catastrophic effects to social programs in the District. Programs like Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) and other housing programs are under threat, and this may make the situation worse if the DC Council cannot find funding for programs that the Mayor continues to cut. We truly need to fight for a fair budget that fully supports the working class of Washington, DC and increases taxes on the wealthy.

Our party must continue to build going into the rest of the year and 2025, no matter what the national outcome may be in November. Our role is to build the strength of the working class and oppressed of DC and fight for our political leadership.

Long live the Communist Party of Washington, DC!

Long live the working class of Washington, DC!

We have a city to win, so let’s continue to struggle in unity towards that goal.

Images: DC Communist Party by DC District (CC BY 2.0 Deed ); DC Voting Rights Rally by IntangibleArts (CC BY 2.0 Deed); I Demand the Vote by Keith Ivy (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Deed); DC Voting Rights Now by David (CC BY 2.0 Deed); DC Vote “tea party” rally by Keith Ivy (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Deed)


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