Elections ’04 – Report to the National Board

July 14, 2004

The countdown is 125 days from today to November 2nd when our country will elect a new president, senate, house of representatives and state legislatures. Mobilization is at a high level.

This weekend, the Rainbow-PUSH convention is taking place in Chicago, projecting a targeted mobilization to defeat Bush in the South. The National Council of La Raza annual meeting is taking place in Phoenix, Arizona projecting a targeted mobilization to defeat Bush among Latino voters in the Southwest states.

Also this weekend, in 17 Presidential battleground states, members of AFL-CIO unions are gathering in large numbers to knock on the doors of their co-workers and discuss the issues. In cities across the country, peace activists are holding protests against Bush’s war on Iraq and calling for the return of US troops. We can anticipate a strong anti-Bush flavor at the Gay Pride Parade.

And on Monday night, MoveOn has organized hundreds house parties to discuss Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911.

This follows last weekend’s AFSCME and SEIU national conventions in California, with a participation of over 100,000 in Bridging the Gap demonstrations demanding health care for all.

And soon to come conventions by the NAACP in Philadelphia and NOW in Las Vegas, and NEA in Washington DC, HERE/UNITE in Chicago. All before the Democratic and Republican national conventions.

As we and many others have said, this election will determine much about the future of our country, and will have a great impact on the world. It could not be more important. While the race remains too close to call, it is also true that Bush is losing important ground.

As the death toll in Iraq mounts and new Bush administration lies and deceptions are uncovered almost daily – from the findings of the 9/11 commission, to the hearings on Iraqi prison torture – this week’s CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll shows that 54% now believe the war on Iraq was not worth it, and 55% believe that the war has not made the United States safer from terrorism – the main basis of the Bush campaign.

As the war on working people intensifies, making it more and more difficult to bring home a decent living or to get health care, polls now show that a majority think the country is worse off due to Bush administration economic policies, and that a new direction is needed in the country.

These developments, along with the addition of two Democrats to the House of Representatives in special elections (Kansas- Ben Chandler and South Dakota-Stephanie Herseth), have raised hopes among progressive minded people of not only winning the Presidency, but also taking back the Senate with two additional seats, and possibly the House as well from Republican domination. Right-wing Republican control of the committees of Congress has stifled dissent and prevented basic needs from coming to the floor for vote.

It would be helpful for each district to single out House seats that can be swung from Republican to Democrat to develop our list of key races, which includes progressive Frank Barbaro in New York and Cynthia McKinney in Georgia.

A number of exciting candidates are emerging in the Senate, in the first place Barak Obama in Illinois, and also several progressive women including Betty Castor seeking to retain retiring Bob Graham’s seat as Democrat; Nancy Farmer seeking to defeat Kit Bond in Missouri; Inez Tenenbaum seeking to retain retiring Fritz Hollings seat as Democrat.

In New Hampshire, an expression of the grass-roots voice is the candidacy of ‘Granny D’, seeking to defeat Judd Gregg. Now in her 90’s, having crisscrossed the country several times on behalf of campaign finance reform, she explained in her announcement speech: ‘I am running for the US Senate against a good man, Judd Gregg, who has allowed himself to become an enabler of George Bush and his neo-con scourge now afflicting our nation and the world….I am the angry grandmother of the New Hampshire family, come off my porch to ask young Judd what in the world he is thinking when he supports Bush’s military misadventures, supports the transfer of billions of our tax dollars to billionaires, and supports the shipping of our jobs overseas with tax breaks that actually encourage this tragic loss.’

On the eve of the Democratic and Republican Conventions, the extreme right, backed up by Wall St., is preparing to pull out all the stops to elect Bush and maintain Republican majorities in both houses of Congress, in the hopes of carrying forth their program unimpeded.

On our side of the class struggle, an unprecedented labor and people’s grass roots effort is well underway, especially in battleground states, but reaching far beyond, to Push Bush out the Door in 2004. The new structures and new level of rank and file participation being put into place has significance far beyond this election.

The main question before us at this moment is: How will the Communist Party USA and YCL do our part in this historic battle to deliver a decisive defeat to Bush and the far-right agenda? How will we carry out our work in the next 125 days in such a way that leaves our Party in a stronger position for the next stage of the labor and people’s struggles post- November 2?

Splits in Ruling Class

The monthly updates delivered to the National Board have attempted to keep abreast of new developments, with the goal of fine-tuning our tactics and action.

We have spoken of splits in the ruling class, for example the substantial contributions by financier George Soros toward defeating what he calls the Bush Doctrine of world domination by force.

Last week’s stinging indictment by Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change furthers this development significantly. The group includes Democrats and Republicans; they accuse the Bush administration of relying on military might and alienating traditional friends and allies, and they call for the defeat of George Bush.

There are somewhat frequent examples of those who could have been expected to give support in the past, who are now breaking with Bush. Florida syndicated columnist Charley Reese is one. Writing in the West Virginia Journal last month he said, ‘People who think of themselves as conservatives will really display their stupidity, as I did, by voting for Bush. Bush is as far from being a conservative as you can get. Well, he fooled me once but he won’t fool me twice….I will swallow a lot of petty policy differences with Kerry to get a man in the White House with brains enough not to blow up the world and us with it.’

The Bush Camp

The Bush Camp, determined to maintain control of federal government, is carrying out new levels of attack with initiatives that mirror the successful grass roots tactics being employed by the labor movement and allies. Over the last month, several new far-right 527 and 5014c organizations have formed, which can receive unlimited soft money contributions:

Americans for Jobs and Growth, which includes Michigan Governor John Engler, is raising $7 million for a tv ad blitz in Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin focusing on free trade and Bush’s fake job record.

Let Freedom Ring, which is Pennsylvania based and a project of Grover Norquist, is raising $10 million for ads to counter MoveOn, and to produce a film on Bush’s faith.

The Club for Growth will air TV ads in Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Colorado and three other states.

Progress for America projects $40 to $60 million for grass rooks work and so-called ‘Truth Squads’ (we might say, Un-Truth Squads) on the Bush tax cuts, economic and energy policies, following Kerry wherever he appears to imply he is not capable of fighting terrorism.

The Leadership Forum, which includes Tom DeLay, is focused on ads and voter ID and mobilization in key Congressional districts and for the White House.

On the religious front, the Southern Baptists launched an ‘i Vote Values’ campaign which will include Citizenship Sundays and a voter registration truck tour throughout the South and the battlegrounds highlighting issues such as opposition to abortion, gay rights and gun control.

It is noteworthy that the dominance of a fundamentalist agenda has caused a split among Southern Baptists. Those favoring separation of church and state have formed their own Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

It is also noteworthy that even as Catholic bishops voted to shun politicians who support abortion rights, in a CBS poll 78% of Catholics said it is not appropriate to deny communion to politicians who disagree with the Church. Those polled favored Kerry by 52%.

Response to Bush

The use of religion as a wedge by the right-wing cannot be given a pass.

Speaking at the Take Back American conference, Antonio Villagorosa pointed out, ‘No group has a monopoly on values,’ projecting a values Agenda for ‘a better America which doesn’t leave immigrants behind, in which hard working families can buy a home and have healthcare, which bridges the gap of wealth and poverty and confronts the legacy of slavery and issues of race.’

The Appalachian tour by Jesse Jackson with the Steelworkers union, Mine Workers union and AFSCME is a great example of building unity around economic issues in poverty stricken rural America. This Reinvest in America tour exposed the Bush job deficit town by town, battleground state by battleground state, projecting a program for good jobs, health care and housing, and an end to the war on Iraq.

These rural swing voters stand to be harmed dramatically under a second Bush presidency, with much sharper attacks on all social spending including social security. Already federal agencies have been put on notice that $2.3 billion more will be cut from the domestic budget including education, homeland security, WIC, Head Start, Veterans programs, job-training, medical research and science programs, and the possible elimination of Section 8 housing assistance, in a second administration.


The same pressures from Wall St. to control the deficit will be placed on a Kerry administration, but his campaign has taken a decidedly different tack. Kerry has framed his program around reinstating some of the tax cuts on the rich, supporting job creation through the Apollo project, and expanding health care coverage. Not as dramatic a program as we would place, but one that goes in a significantly different direction.

Kerry reflects a liberal agenda, his campaign represents a moderate-progressive coalition. He is not left. He is the vehicle by which George W. Bush, representing the most extreme reaction, can be defeated. A Kerry presidency by itself will not bring the changes, it will undoubtedly require huge mass pressure to bring the changes. In this regard, as Sam consistently points out, a Kerry election presents the possibility for greater struggles to undo damage and move forward.

There is concern in many quarters that Kerry has not taken a strong enough stand, especially on issues of race and on the war in Iraq. Placing this criticism, Julian Bond said at the Take Back America conference, ‘Too often the opposition party has been absent without leave. When one party is shameless the other can’t afford to be spineless.’ Yet, he concluded, given the threat to civil rights enforcement on every front and right-wing control of all branches of government, ‘The consequences of loss are too high to bear. We have to ensure every citizen registers and votes and guarantee the theft of Black (any any) votes never happens again.’

These formulations speak volumes to those within peace and left organizations who insist there is no difference between Kerry and Bush. On the basis of the record alone, this is not the case.

On Labor issues: – Kerry supports the right to card check neutrality union elections. George Bush is moving to outlaw card check neutrality, and is a notorious union buster. – Kerry voted against the fake Medicare Prescription Drug Bill which Bush promoted. – Kerry voted against takeaway of overtime pay, which Bush promoted. – Kerry voted to extend unemployment benefits, which Bush opposed. – Kerry supports Affirmative Action. Bush filed a supreme court brief against affirmative action.

And on issues of Peace, there is also a clear difference: – Bush supports development and funding of new nuclear weapons. Kerry opposes new nuclear weapons and also opposes resumption of testing. – Bush abrogated the ABM treaty, Kerry supported the treaty – Bush’s foreign policy is based on pre-emptive war. Kerry favors diplomacy over military intervention. Again, his position is not ours, but he says: ‘I support the right of pre-emption in the face of an imminent threat. But the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war is a dangerous departure from the time-tested principles of American foreign policy that have kept us safe.’ – Bush created policies that stifle dissent. Kerry supports the right to dissent including peaceful protests without being monitored, harassed or jailed.

On Iraq, we disagree with Kerry’s position of staying in while seeking NATO support. We support the demand to bring the troops home now, US out, UN in. This week, the SEIU convention asserted its leadership and unanimously adopted a strong resolution to end the US occupation of Iraq and for a return of the troops. This is a powerful action, and will surely serve as ‘friendly pressure,’ bottom-up. Yet within the broad peace movement, there are many who, not understanding the role of US imperialism, argue that it would be wrong to leave before rebuilding, and simply support the demand to ‘set a date certain’ for withdrawal. It would not be in the service of the people of Iraq, or Cuba, or Latin America, or anywhere in the world to narrowly judge the election on this point alone. A Bush defeat would be a defeat to the Bush Doctrine, and would give strength to the movement to prevent another Iraq, and to allow the people of Iraq to chart their own course.

Dennis Kucinich’s 50 delegates to the national democratic convention, will be presenting a platform plank for a Department of Peace, voted favorably by four state conventions, including dramatically in Texas just this week. The efforts of Kucinich together with Jesse Jackson and others, to bring forward more advanced demands, will make an important contribution to the convention. A very special contribution will be made by an expectedly large number of labor union delegates who will work together in one bloc to get a strong platform for jobs, health care, and pensions.

We project our role at the convention as distribution of the Peoples Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo and literature to delegates and in free speech areas, and participation in the Kucinich-led issue events. We hope to have reporters inside the convention, we hope to speak with any labor delegates we know in their home states before the convention, and to participate in the Boston Social Forum which will be held the weekend prior to the convention.

Our emphasis on mass protest is geared toward the August 29 massive outpouring in New York City just before the start of the Republican Convention for ‘The World Says No to the Bush Doctrine’ rally and march.

Nader/Camejo, the Greens and Third Party Politics

After a close division within the Green Party at their national convention this weekend, the delegates chose Presidential Nominee David Cobb, and Vice Presidential Nominee Pat LaMarche, rejecting the Ralph Nader/Peter Camejo ticket.

Cobb pledged to campaign only in ‘safe states’ for president, while seeking to build the Green Party at the grass roots. By acknowledging the importance of defeating Bush, he picked up some votes from the 15% who favored not running a presidential candidate this year.

Nader rejected any special approach toward defeating Bush. His failure to capture the Green Party nomination is a setback for his independent ticket, which has been endorsed by the Reform Party.

In such a close election, and especially given the experience of 2000, there are in fact no ‘safe states.’ Nothing can be taken for granted. A ‘safe states’ strategy is based on the electoral vote. In a situation of anticipated dirty tricks, the importance of the popular vote cannot be minimized. The results of such a candidacy are unclear at best, and threaten to become a serious negative, with a divided anti-Bush presidential vote.

Public opinion polls in the battleground states over the past several months see-saw back and forth, underscoring the conclusion that only a few votes could make the difference. In this situation, it is both irresponsible and dangerous to support a Nader or Green candidacy for president. A Bush victory would in fact negate the peace program they present.

This is not to say that we abandon independent forms beyond the Democratic Party. To the contrary, we seek out such forms at the local level, including some Greens, and the need for more of our own candidates as well.

The newly emerging Working Families Party and its fusion strategy, which negates the issue of spoiler, deserves special attention. The Working Families Party in New York is building a beautiful working class multi-racial base. In New York their local campaigns are being carried out in the context of defeating Bush, and also electing a long-time progressive, Frank Barbaro to Congress in a district that has been represented by a Republican. The efforts of the Working Families Party to expand into more states deserve full support.

Labor and Peoples Movement

The biggest news of this election that deserves our full attention and participation, is the unprecedented involvement of rank and file union members, with community activists in a huge, united, multi-coalition effort based in the battleground states, and radiating out.

The depth of involvement of union members in this election already is considered a real breakthrough by our comrades, an accomplishment with significance for the future of the labor movement far beyond this one election.

The heart of the campaign lies in the battleground states, and of course our attention is focused on the Mid West and in particular on Missouri and Ohio. There are several new features. In addition to the long-standing grass roots organizations, there are new coalitions which we have spoken of: America Coming Together, Working America, etc.

With so many organizations focused on the same electoral districts, the problem of duplicating efforts arose. In response, a new national super-coalition, America Votes has been formed. It is groundbreaking because all the organizations involved, including labor, environment, women, consumer, are meeting regularly in Washington DC and also in each state to share and train volunteers, divide target areas, share lists and all information. The individual boundaries of each organization are set aside for the greater collective goal of defeating Bush and the far-right.

This coordinated approach reaches beyond the presidential battlegrounds to all states. For example, New York, considered a sure Democratic state, is assigned to Pennsylvania. The state is divided up into zones, and weekend bus trips and mid week long distance phone banking are done on that basis.

The door is open to all volunteers, there are no barriers preventing anyone dedicated to the defeat of Bush from participation. In fact, America Votes director Cecile Roberts reports that the problem has been setting up the field operations fast enough for all the volunteers coming forward. ‘There is more youth response than any time since Vietnam,’ she said. ‘This election will be decided by millions who feel enough is enough.’

Over 300,000 people have been signed up as members of the AFL-CIO through Working America by door to door canvassers in working class swing districts. In Florida, Ohio, Missouri, Washington state, and Oregon paid canvassers are spearheading the work. In other battleground states volunteers from local unions and neighboring states are knocking on doors.

They talk about how workers need a stronger voice, how the AFL-CIO is fighting on issues for jobs and health care, and ending with an invitation to join. Most do, laying the basis for follow-up education on the issues and voter turnout, and also for future union organizing drives. The AFL-CIO in each state is mobilizing teams, along with the labor councils.

In addition to these efforts, are the Unity04 coalition which is focused on the South, Youth Vote and other youth oriented coalitions, the NOW campaign for each voter to sign up ten more, to name a few.

The goal is to bring out the maximum vote and guarantee that every vote is counted. Tremendous struggles are unfolding to secure the vote, on election day and before hand.

1) Guarding against the disenfranchisement of African American and Latino and Native American voters at the polls by being wrongfully dropped from the rolls, and by harassment at the voting place.

2) Campaigns are underway to change state laws to make it easier for ex-felons to restore their voting rights, an important aspect of the fight against racism given policies which have incarcerated so many African American and Latino youth.

3) Backlogs delaying citizenship papers endanger the exclusion of immigrants from voting

4) Students are protesting disenfranchisement of the youth vote, leaning heavily Democratic, by some states refusing to allow registration at campus addresses.

5) The biggest concern is regarding the security of voting machines. It was just reported that 1.9 million ballots were thrown out as ‘spoiled’ in the 2000 elections, of which 1 million were the ballots of African American voters, the largest Democratic voting bloc. In addition is the new problem of electronic voting machines with no verified paper trail, which California, Ohio and some other states have taken action against. Rep Holt of New Jersey has introduced a bill in Congress to require a verified paper trail.

To insure that every vote is counted, the America Votes super-coalition is coordinating nationally and encouraging the formation of local coalitions with poll watchers, know your rights literature and posters, and a massive national legal team. If there is a problem at your polling place and no one to help, a national help line can be called, 1-866-OUR-VOTE, where you will be connected with a lawyer in your area.

The Party’s Role

The January elections conference charged our entire Party with digging in to the 2004 election at all levels. The heart of the work will be represented in the reports from clubs and districts.

We can be proud of our very fine publications, the Peoples Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo, Political Affairs and Dynamic. The Peoples Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo is our basic piece of campaign literature for mass distribution. It is our weekly connection to our base at the grass roots, and to leadership level allies. The staff has done a wonderful job of dramatizing the lies and deceptions of the Bush administration, and the fightback that is bursting forth. We will hear a special report from the paper today.

Campaign literature to date includes 20,000 copies of the Build Unity Beat Bush conference report for members, activists and opinion makers, and a 10 minute video from the conference geared toward group discussion, and for lining up volunteers.

The Top Ten Reasons to Defeat Bush is on the website in English and Spanish, and 30,000 will be printed. An updated reprint of Jarvis Tyner’s PA article on the Black vote is under preparation. And we are beginning work on a Communist Party platform, hopefully to be ready for distribution by the end of August. The YCL is producing a pamphlet on the stake of youth in this election.

At the beginning of this campaign we set for ourselves a joint goal of defeating Bush and the ultra-right and also emerging from the campaign with a larger Communist Party and YCL, with increased capability of influencing events and helping to build the labor and peoples movements.

Since that time, events have moved rapidly. As the profit-power-hungry goals of the Bush administration have come to light one by one, the Enron scandal, Haliburton, privatization of Medicare, theft of workers’ pensions, manipulating the facts to get support for going to war, confidence has been deeply shaken.

A national conversation is unfolding about what should the future of our nation should look like. It is not enough to be against Bush and the far-right, what are the alternatives, what is the vision for the country? What is the nature of democracy in our country? How does the voice of the majority get heard? This national conversation can be heard at the coalition level nationally and locally, all the way to union rank and file and community grass roots.

Our Party has much to contribute to this basic conversation. Democracy is at stake in this election. The defeat of Bush and Company is a first and necessary step. But much more change is on the order of the day. We are no longer the lone voices speaking of the fact that there is no need for poverty in our land of great wealth. What we bring to the table is the connection between the immediate reforms we struggle for today, and the longer term goal of socialism in our country. Gus Hall often emphasized the relationship between reform and revolution as basic to our approach.

I believe we have done our best recruiting and Party building when we are in the midst of action, when we have won a civilian review board, forestalled a plant closing, won back pay. Some of our best work and recruiting in the recent past was done when we were nationally all engaged around the Martinez Public Works Jobs Bill. As we built for that among low income and unemployed members of the working class as well as union members, we had the chance to also discuss the longer term fight for a good job as a basic human right, for a whole new system truly run by and for the people without exploitation. In the midst of this campaign many new members joined our Party.

Perhaps a campaign approach to a few of the more basic bills now before Congress would strengthen our get-out-the-vote drive, and serve to carry the organizing beyond election day. For example:

Employee Free Choice Act, would establish card check neutrality as a method for winning union recognition. Co-sponsored by over 30 senators and 200 members of the House of Representatives.

‘Medicare for All Bill’, HR 676, introduced by John Conyers with 28 co-sponsors

SOLVE Act of 2004, HR 4264 introduced by Luis Gutierrez in the House with 48 co-sponsors and Kennedy in the Senate, S 2381, which addresses legalization and the issues of the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride. (Safe Orderly Legal Visas and Enforcement)

The Apollo Project, aimed at producing a significant number of infrastructure jobs while protecting the environment has not yet been introduced, but the campaign around it is building.

Campaigning as part of a national movement for such major reforms in our club neighborhoods and relating the national demands to the local situation is a great tool for building Peoples Weekly World routes and developing Communist voting constituencies, raising sights for the possibility and need to replace capitalism.

The complexities of this election require that we work on several levels at the same time.

1. Our national concentration is the Mid West Project. We are focusing specifically on Missouri in July and Ohio in August, but are not limited to those states or dates. Proposals for help to Michigan, Southwestern Pennsylvania and Florida have been received. The idea of sending 100 activists to help defeat Bush and build the Party in two crucial swing states ravaged by plant closings and job loss is generating much enthusiasm. We will hear a detailed report on this today.

2. The labor movement and allies are organizing teams to swing states on a regional basis. In every area it is possible to connect with the labor community coalition and volunteer to go to working class swing districts in battleground states. For example, New York is assigned to Pennsylvania, Connecticut to New Hampshire.

3. In the fight to change Congress, swing House districts can be identified in most states. Nationally, we should examine the Senate races that are in play, and focus on a few where we have organization and can help to make a difference. In Illinois it is possible to elect Obama to the US Senate which would make big history. In New York it is possible to elect Frank Barbaro to the House, changing the seat from Republican to Democrat. Are there others that we should pay special attention to?

4. The foundation is at the club, in a concentration working class neighborhood or election district, where it is possible to build a grass roots movement so people are voting not simply as individuals but as a community and a movement. Here is an opportunity to use the Peoples Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo as an organizing tool while registering new voters, and following up with those new voters with invitations to attend demonstrations or activities, following up with those new voters rides to the polls, and possibly recruiting into the club. By selecting an election district with a high percentage of non-voters for concentration, such activity can become an important contribution to the election effort, coordinated with local labor/community coalitions, and also provides the basis for ongoing long-term organizing.

State Legislature campaigns, like the Working Families Party campaign to raise the minimum wage in New York, or the tax the rich campaigns in a number of states, provide an opportunity to project more advanced demands and inspire voter turnout.

In this election, every action counts far beyond its weight. Every voter registered, every voter convinced to participate, every volunteer to watchdog the polls can make the difference. Clubs that have taken the step to begin voter registration or education have quickly found a welcome place working with others and building new alliances.

This meeting gives us the opportunity to get a picture of how our Party clubs are carrying out their work. Hopefully, it will help us all boost our efforts. We are in a very demanding time, a very exciting and inspiring time, a movement building time. Let’s give it our all in the next 125 days.

(Presented to the expanded National Board meeting on June 26 and 27.)


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