Forward together: For pre-convention discussion

BY:CPUSA National Committee| January 29, 2024
Forward together: For pre-convention discussion


Editor’s note: The CPUSA National Committee adopted the document below at its January 27th meeting to frame its preconvention discussion. It’s the first of three, the second of which will be on the role of the party. The third will be on the international situation.

The U.S. is in the midst of a deep systemic crisis, perhaps the most severe since the Civil War and the Great Depression. It is a political, economic, social, cultural and ideological crisis of the capitalist system. Confidence in government is at an all-time low, while working-class anger at mounting inequality is at an all-time high. Gaza, Ukraine, COVID, stagnant wages, high prices, student debt, climate change, racist police violence, the outlawing of abortion and affirmative action, anti-immigrant and LGBTQ hate, mass shootings — all contribute to a growing sense of fear, instability, and uncertainty. Disaffection from the mass media, centers of learning, religions, and political parties is widespread, reflecting a profound crisis of belief, trust and identity. Even the nation’s capability to establish facts is being called into question as its sense of objective reality, already frayed, is being stripped away by the extreme right’s war on science, history and truth. Along with “alternative facts,” fascism is increasingly promoted as an alternative by the most reactionary sections of the billionaire class.

The crisis has its origins in the U.S.’ incomplete bourgeois democratic revolution that granted freedom to those with property, but subjected those without to bonded labor, slavery, and genocide, systems of exploitation that not only contributed to the country’s development but also laid the basis for a united struggle against such exploitation.

Thus, it is a crisis rooted in capitalism’s drive for maximum profits, class struggle and the system’s inherent racial and gender inequality. As a result, there is a fierce tug of war between two contending concepts of who we are and what we must become. One is rooted in the racist and sexist hierarchies of monopoly capitalism; the other in the fraternity of the working class and its conceptions of freedom, democracy and human equality.

Indeed, the path ahead is fiercely contested: Does it lie with austerity cutbacks or union rights and a Green New Deal? Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again or Martin Luther King’s Beloved Community? The “Happy Days” of a segregated suburbia or an advanced multiracial people’s democracy on the road to working-class power? In answer, mass electoral movements of the extreme right and of the broad left and center have emerged. These popular fronts are contending for political power. Each is offering its own vision and program. The former represents a hardened third of the country, the latter embraces an anti-MAGA simple majority. The struggle to defeat the fascist right is the main issue before the country today.

The struggle to defeat the MAGA right is the main issue before the country today: the GOP is arguably the most dangerous political party in history.

In the course of these battles, on many issues — among them union rights, the environment, racism, abortion, immigration, and LGBTQ rights — there’s been a palpable shift to the left, helping shape broad democratic majorities. A mass radicalization process has been quietly at work throughout, molding class consciousness and anti-monopoly sentiment, in turn, giving rise to a “socialist moment” among its most advanced contingents. Yes, a rising multi-racial and multi-gender “red generation” of young workers and students is coming into being. It is filling the ranks of anti-racist and pro-abortion movements, leading strikes, and, most recently, joining anti-war initiatives in response to the Israeli razing of Gaza.

Meanwhile, nearly 100 million eligible voters, stand outside of electoral politics, disillusioned with the ballot, their hope for a better life scattered among countless broken promises. Many, however, are part of emerging movements. Engaging this section of the working class, rekindling hope, and keeping it alive remains an urgent task. This engagement must include fielding independent Communist candidates.

The fascist danger

And through it all, the fascist danger looms. At times it’s hidden, but after the January 6th insurrection and particularly since the fall of ‘23, this danger is increasingly undisguised. Trump is now brazenly and unapologetically using the “immigrants-are-poisoning-our-blood” language of his Nazi predecessors. But it would be a mistake to confine the problem to Trump, Elon Musk, a few Proud Boys, or even the insurgents who stormed the Capitol on that fateful day in January. Rather, the threat stems from a mass neo-fascist movement organized by the most reactionary sections of the billionaire class. It’s been nurtured over decades, first in the evangelical right’s Moral Majority, then in the Tea Party, and now in the MAGA movement.

These forces comprise the greatest threat to constitutional rule since Jefferson Davis’ slaveholder rebellion, more dangerous even than their confederate grandfathers. Backed by almost unlimited resources, supported by armed militias, motivated by racist grievances, misogyny and anti-LGBTQ hate, and replete with fascists and gangster capitalists, the Republican Party is arguably the most dangerous political party in history. Its strategic defeat is a historic imperative. It is central to social progress. Indeed, it may well be central to human survival.

The challenge to today’s democracy with all its limitations, however, is larger still. It’s not only the fascist and extreme right elements openly aligned with Trump that are contributing to unraveling the threads of the republic. It’s also the complicity of those who, in the pursuit of imperialist profits, aid and abet them, including the Silicon Valley tech billionaires, Big Pharma, and the Big Oil and military corporations. They’re organized in the Chambers of Commerce, the Business Roundtables, the boards of trade, and include the bankers, manufacturers, and real estate interests. They’re the ones who, to maximize the corporate bottom line, hedge their electoral bets, aligning themselves today with the MAGA right, tomorrow with their opponents, ensuring that whatever the outcome, their class interests are maintained. A case in point were the corporate contributions to Congressional members of the “coup caucus” who, after Jan. 6, pledged to withdraw donations, only to, with a wink and a nod, resume them shortly after. Their double dealing is particularly evident in matters of foreign trade and the military budget, issues that, notwithstanding significant progressive Democratic opposition, enjoy a wide bipartisan consensus. Biden’s foreign policy team, for example, have borrowed, either in whole or in part, the Cold War 2.0 politics of the Trump administration with respect to the U.S.–Mexico border, China, and Cuba.

This bipartisan consensus also helps explain the toxic brew of militarism, nationalism, racism, misogyny, homophobia, anti-immigrant hate, and anti-communism, served up daily via sections of the monopoly-dominated mass media and government. Their complicity consists precisely in supporting policies that contribute to an atmosphere in which fascism takes root, breeds, and flourishes. It was for this reason that Lenin, over a century ago, labeled the imperialist stage of capitalism “reaction all down the line.”

It would be a mistake, however, to conclude from the foregoing that the billionaire class are of one mind. The conflicts among them are as numerous and sharp as their diverging business interests. Big capital’s alignment now and again in pursuit of global imperialist objectives do not necessarily translate to agreement on how to do business back home.

Naturally, the same can be said for their Democratic and Republican representatives. As U.S. imperialism strives to adjust to an increasingly multi-polar world, their positions may coincide to some degree on foreign policy, but governing domestically is another issue. Coincidence of position in one arena does not necessarily imply convergence in others. Understanding why positions at times correlate and in other instances diverge is key to learning how to exploit these contradictions in the course of ongoing democratic struggles over policy. And it’s the ongoing struggles over policy that are key to advancing the cause of the working-class and people’s movement. It’s also key to defeating the fascist threat. The role of the Communist Party is to bring these issues forward and organize around them.

This is an especially sharp issue today, as borne out by Gaza. The Biden administration and the GOP are largely on the same page in supporting the Israeli invasion, notwithstanding their very different stances on domestic issues as they prepare for the upcoming election. As a result, the election’s outcome may now be in serious jeopardy. Many young voters and voters of color, understandably enraged at ongoing support for Israel, have rejected supporting the Democratic presidential ticket. A significant part of the anti-fascist coalition is in danger of splintering off, precipitating a serious crisis. What is to be done?

Lessons for today

The answer lies in organizing masses in motion, in other words, in struggle. In this regard, recent history is instructive. The decade of the ‘60s presented similar challenges: Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan threatened from the extreme right and Jim Crow was the law of the land in the South. Kennedy ordered the Bay of Pigs and half a million troops were fighting in Vietnam, invasions supported by both parties. A year later, the Cuban missile crisis threatened nuclear war. Responding to the GOP right, the Vietnam War, and Jim Crow were, by any measure, daunting tasks for the movement, but it did respond — and magnificently so.

How? By struggle: by grasping and pulling hard on the central threads that ran through the cracks in the foundations of imperialism’s edifice. Racial segregation at home and a racist war abroad are cases in point. Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement, allied with sections of labor, had the foresight to connect the fight for civil rights with the battle for peace and economic justice. This sparked a historic and transformative mass movement. It was initially tough going. Yet after the sit-ins, boycotts, fire hoses, police dogs and jailings, victory came first in the Civil Rights Acts, then the Fair Housing Act, followed by enactments of Medicare and Medicaid. In the course of these titanic struggles, the battle to end the war was joined. The country soon came to realize that the bombs dropped on Vietnam really were exploding in U.S. cities. The end of the war came a few years later. First came Martin’s murder, then the GOP’s southern strategy encouraging white flight from the Democratic Party. The center and left were divided over Civil Rights and the Vietnam War. Those divisions resulted in over a decade of right-wing rule, first with Richard Nixon and then (after Carter) Ronald Reagan.

The demand for complete equality called for the completion of unfinished bourgeois-democratic business, not only from the founding of the Republic, but also by the betrayal of Reconstruction and segregation.

Still, the civil rights era, under the independent leadership of the African American people allied with labor, while protracted and difficult, was a profoundly democratic experience. The demand for complete equality called for the completion of unfinished bourgeois-democratic business, not only from the founding of the Republic, but also by the betrayal of Reconstruction and segregation. It combined great victory and tremendous sacrifice. The role of the Communist Party and the left was to support it in every way possible — not from sidelines, but in the thick of struggle by building working-class and broad democratic support for its just demands. The party fought for the movement’s unity, focused on the issues, and sought allies in labor, not only domestically, but with the international working-class movement as well.

Today, just as in the ’60s, the country is confronted by a triple threat: this time from Trump and fascism on the right, bipartisan support for war, and a many-sided class war on democracy and labor at home and abroad. Because the domestic threat of fascism is also connected to the threat internationally, the stakes are even higher.

The struggle for democracy

Once again, a winning response lies in struggle: by grasping and pulling on the anti-democratic threads that lie along the system’s fault lines. This includes the GOP assault on voting rights, abortion, trans, and immigrant rights, as well as support for genocidal wars abroad. The challenge is to link these struggles together, and connect them with the fight for a ceasefire. With regard to the imperative of a ceasefire in Gaza, world communist and working-class unity is needed now more than ever.

Our Road to Socialism Program points out that the path ahead is paved with the struggle for democracy: workers’ right to organize and collectively bargain, women’s right to have control over their bodies, people of color’s right to vote and determine their destiny, along with everyone’s right to love who you want to love. It is in and through these struggles that the working-class movement learns to exercise the power required to bring real and lasting change. And class power is where the action is. Indeed, working-class power is the only language the ruling class understands, regardless of the inclinations of its various factions. Ruling class power only concedes to the power of consciously mobilized demand. Big business and their political representatives must be compelled to do the right thing, including the centrists and liberals in the Democratic Party who are subject to influence from both right and left. The core forces in the people’s movements, such as labor, people of color, women, LGBTQ, youth, along with environmental, anti-war, and religious movements, operate both within and outside of the Democratic Party — that gives them leverage. The issue is how to exercise this leverage and fight for working-class independence, and that, too, is learned in struggle. Understanding this is a basic part of learning to apply the party’s strategic policy.

Even if at the end of the day, efforts prove unsuccessful, all is not lost. It’s in these battles that deeper lessons are learned about the nature of capitalism. In fact, that’s where working-class experience intersects with revolutionary ideology; that’s where theory is developed. It’s where the Communist Party provides its “plus.” The party helps draw out and theorize experience by highlighting the capitalist causes of the crisis and the need for socialist solutions. Thus, the process of struggle is what leads workers to become conscious of themselves as a class force. Workplace, community, and campus struggles are the places where coalitions are born and take shape; it is where an understanding of the relationship between short-term goals and long-term aims, reform and revolution, are acquired. Here lies the arena of real-life dialectics, where opposing forces collide, brimming with possibility, giving rise to what’s new and becoming.

What’s new

And what’s new and becoming is that organizing at the grassroots is overcoming the inertia that characterized the first years of Biden’s presidency. During that period, very little was done to push for implementation of the platform that got the Democrats elected. Still, a pro-union National Relations Board, a child tax credit that lifted millions from poverty, and other important legislation was achieved. More could have resulted had the democratic movement been more united and organized. Mobilizations around the midterm elections, however, marked the beginning of a turning point. Widespread outrage over the Dobbs decision sparked an electoral revolt. Women, joined by people of color and labor, undertook massive voter organizing drives, successfully defeating MAGA’s predicted red wave, limiting its gains in the House, and setting them on their heels in the Senate.

As the country recovered from COVID, organizing initiatives continued to grow. Most importantly, strike activity and labor organizing gained momentum as a new year took hold. In 2023, electoral wins were scored in dozens of cities and states, among them Brandon Johnson’s spring win in Chicago, followed by the Ohio abortion referendum and the GOP’s rout in Virginia’s legislature in the fall. Last year also witnessed tens of thousands of pro-civil rights forces rallying for democracy and equality at the August commemoration of the 1963 March on Washington. Then a few weeks later, some 75,000 gathered in NYC to demand Biden declare a climate emergency and an end to the country’s use of fossil fuels. The year concluded with an explosion of mass protest against the war on Gaza, involving hundreds of thousands, if not millions. Initiated by Palestinian and other youth of color, and joined by African American faith leaders and elected officials, along with progressive Jews, a new peace movement has been born in the fight for a ceasefire in Gaza, reshaping the political terrain with national and international implications. Labor unions are joining the front lines, demanding a ceasefire as well. Gaza has become a focal point in the fight for world peace and justice.

A class struggle moment

Among the many factors giving rise to these developments, the class struggle stands out. A deep mass radicalization process is at work here. Its origins are on the shop floor. Workers are tired of doing more and receiving less. They’re fed up with decades of stagnant wages and rising inequalities. They’re angry at assembly line speed up, two-tier wages, sexual harassment, racial discrimination, and being pitted against their undocumented siblings. That anger is showing up on the picket lines. A renewed sense of class struggle trade unionism has taken hold in a number of important unions, like the Teamsters, autoworkers, and healthcare and other service workers. Labor is taking center stage and starting to write its own script, one that emphasizes the need for unity and militancy in the fight against the bosses. In confrontations on picket lines and at bargaining tables all across the country, it’s increasingly understood that the interests of the working class and the billionaire class are directly opposed. Taken together, these developments point to the emergence of a new class struggle moment in the country, adding a new quality to all struggles.

Labor is taking center stage and starting to write its own script, one that emphasizes the need for unity and militancy in the fight against the bosses.

This new class struggle moment is expressing itself at the point of production, first and foremost. The number of workers who’ve walked off the job has nearly quadrupled since 2021, involving some one-half million workers last year. But it doesn’t stop there. The fact is, workplace struggles are resonating far beyond the shop floor. When the auto workers and Hollywood writers hit the bricks, they received widespread public support, upwards of 60%. It’s striking that despite the ongoing decline in union membership — today only 10 percent of the workforce is unionized — pro-union sentiment has skyrocketed. Now, 7 in 10 approve of unions — fertile ground for rebuilding the labor movement.

Anti-monopoly consciousness

Mass thought patterns are clearly gravitating in a working-class direction. Doubts about capitalism are widely felt. More than half of the U.S. public holds dim views of big business. This is not only true for workers but others too, including small businesses. As a result, anti-monopoly sentiment has gained momentum. Wide majorities are opposed to a single business dominating any given market and antitrust laws are popular.

In yet another sign of the emergence of a new moment in the class struggle, monopoly domination of the country’s political and economic life, coupled with extreme wealth inequality, is leading many to draw more basic conclusions. The rich are doing great, better than ever before, but the working class and people are being forced to cut corners and more often than not, do without. Unable to catch a break because of high rent, low pay, inadequate health care, increasing debt, and high prices, to say nothing of racist, sexist, and homophobic violence, people are starting to question the very underpinnings of the system. Simply put, capitalism is not working for tens if not hundreds of millions, and the basic underpinnings of the system are starting to be called to account.

Today, for example, only four in ten African Americans view capitalism favorably, as do only 48 percent of women. Negative sentiment about capitalism is widespread among Latinos as well, involving roughly half of the population. Asian American opinion about the country’s economy is slightly more favorable at 59 percent. The figure stands at 62 percent among whites when men are figured in. The economic impacts of racism and sexism, such as ongoing wage differentials (for African Americans they’ve grown worse since the start of the century), housing discrimination, unequal access to healthcare and education, and unfair treatment in the criminal justice system, obviously have deeply affected these sections of the country’s diverse working class. Institutionalized racism and misogyny are clearly hard at work. They remain capitalism’s Achilles’ heel.

Global warming is another major factor in the mass radicalization process, particularly among young people. Increasingly, capitalism is seen not only as unsustainable, but as an existential threat. What’s called eco-socialism is viewed as the solution.

Crisis of governance

Disenchantment with the political system, largely due to GOP intransigence, is far reaching, including with the presidency, Congress, the Supreme Court, and both political parties. For example, notwithstanding Congress’ and the judiciary’s progress so far in addressing the Jan. 6 insurrection and its aftermath, the U.S. continues to face a veritable crisis of governance. In the fall of 2023, for example, only four percent believed the political system was functioning well. Less than one in five expressed trust in the federal government, with only six in ten having confidence in the future of the political system. This crisis of confidence includes dim views of both major political parties. Today, the number of people declaring themselves independents stands at almost 50 percent, which is equal to the combined total of Democrats and Republicans. Enter GOP stalking horse initiatives like No Labels and other third party initiatives, and the growing risk of Trump’s return to office. Bourgeois democracy is literally standing at the gates.

The crisis is most starkly revealed in the increasingly fascist trajectory of wide swaths of the Republican Party. Recently, 60 percent say racism is not a problem in their choice of a candidate. Less than half feel the same way about antisemitism. Islamophobia is widespread among two-thirds of Republicans. With 80 percent of the GOP believing they’re in danger of losing their culture and identity, and over 50 percent feeling that America has changed so much they feel like strangers in their own land, it’s clear that white supremacy, along with extreme nationalism, are driving this brand of politics. To be clear, both racism and nationalism are ideological building blocks of fascist thinking. Add to it the QAnon conspiracy theory that holds sway in at least one quarter of the GOP electorate.

Democratic, anti-racist majorities

On the other hand, the threads of equality and democracy run deep in the fabric of the United States’ body politic and culture. Witness the Black Lives Matter uprisings, the women’s equality demonstrations, and the protests for immigrant and LGBTQ rights, to say nothing of the popular vote against the extreme right in 2020 and 2022. Democratic and equality trends in music, literature and film are a major force in shaping mass consciousness. In the face of continued battering from the far right, public opinion continues to trend toward more consistently democratic positions.

Affirmative action is a case in point. Recently outlawed by the Supreme Court, affirmative action still enjoys majority support. This support extends even further when applied to women. Unsurprisingly, the same holds for abortion rights, where 61 percent of the public oppose the Dobbs decision. LGBTQ rights, long a GOP wedge issue, is now favored by a supermajority of 80 percent of the American people, an indication of a major democratic ideological victory.

The increasing unity and equality trends among the general public are promising for the upcoming 2024 election and the future. It strengthens the battle against racism, which is central to overcoming the MAGA right and strengthening democracy overall. Indeed, the fight against racism is central to class unity and therefore social progress. Anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic sentiment are prevalent among broad majorities. If mobilized, this sentiment will be a material force in the country’s political life.

Here it is important to not only recognize, but to fight for the special demands of the African American people, the most consistently democratic force in the country, who play a pivotal role in the fight against the GOP and for complete equality and progress. So, too, with women, who are leading the campaign against Republican obstructionism, for abortion and equal rights. The growing Latino community is a bastion of peoples’ fight back. They have been, and will be, decisive in determining the election’s outcome and are an indelible part of democracy’s advanced contingent. The fight for immigrant rights must be placed front and center. Asian Americans, who bear the brunt of violence stemming from the Cold War 2.0 offensive, are a growing progressive and democratic force as well. The Land Back, sovereign rights, treaty and equality demands of Native Americans, too, are a vital part of the democratic front. Black, Brown, Asian, and white unity is key to democracy’s advance.

The role of the party is to fight for working-class leadership.

Thus, the working-class and people’s movements comprise the main forces in the fight against the MAGA right and fascism. Together with a renewed peace movement, they are helping shape the direction of the informal coalition of workers, sections of business, social movements, and political parties like the Democrats, the Working Families Party, and independents which we call the people’s front. The role of the party is to fight for working-class leadership of this front. Participation in it and helping activate the anti-fascist, anti-MAGA majority remains a top priority for the Communist Party in the coming period.

Toward a socialist moment 2.0

While fighting for the immediate needs of the working class today, the Communist Party must also work to guarantee the future of the movement — that’s its plus. In this regard, the party must continue to promote its Bill of Rights socialist vision and fight for the achievement of a working-class-led state. Riding the wave of democratic majorities, the emergence of a broad working-class left, and deepening anti-monopoly sentiment, the socialist moment endures among the movement’s most advanced contingents.

Socialism as it’s understood in the popular imagination continues to draw significant support. Some 52 percent of African Americans view socialism favorably. Asian Americans follow closely, with 49 percent expressing a positive outlook toward the socialist idea. Not far behind, Latinos are at 41 percent. Among whites, socialist concepts are favored by 31 percent. Overall, close to a third of the U.S. people are open to the socialist idea.

An ongoing challenge is to fight for a pro-socialist majority, that is, to win over a majority of the working class, a goal the party and left should never lose sight of. The socialist moment that emerged around the broad left in 2016 and 2020 must be built upon. The moment must be turned into a movement.

Socialist sentiment must be deepened and expanded, rooting itself firmly in the multiracial, multigender, multinational U.S. working-class experience. U.S. socialism’s broad contours must be enhanced, molded, and shaped in the course of the class struggle. It must be refined in the battle for democracy. This must happen not only in day-to-day struggles, but also by its advocates arming themselves theoretically with society’s most advanced science, Marxism-Leninism. This science must be creatively developed and applied to U.S. conditions. In this regard, the role of the Communist Party stands out. While Marxism is not solely the property of the Communist Party alone, the latter’s relationship to the science of society is unique. By combining theory with practice, testing its ideas in real life, the party has a special ability to shape ongoing developments. It has a unique ability to lead. Here, the role of its press, Peoples World and, must be fought for and championed. So, too, with public Marxist schools. The fight for socialism must be based on the most advanced ideas tested and retested in practice.

The movement for socialism in the U.S. must be working-class led. For this to happen, the socialist moments of the past must be combined with the class and democratic struggles of the present. This will lay the basis for the rise of a socialist moment 2.0 in the near future, a moment that’s just around the corner, right there on the horizon, just over there. Let’s march forward, and grab hold of and embrace its new dawn. Onward to the CPUSA’s 32nd National Convention! Onward to November and defeating the fascist right!

Images: CPUSA at the January 13th March on Washington for Gaza by People’s World (CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED); CPUSA, NY District and others at the Stop the corporate backers of fascism action by People’s World (CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED); Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day march, 2003 by Seattle Municipal Archives (CC BY 2.0 DEED); Sinai Postdoctoral Organizing Committee-UAW on the picket line for an equitable contract in NYC, Dec. 14, 2023 by UAW (Twitter/X); CP and YCL at the End Fossil Fuels march by People’s World (CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED)


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