Impeachment and the battle for democracy

BY:Joe Sims| November 19, 2019
Impeachment and the battle for democracy


Editor’s Note: Keynote to CPUSA National Committee, November 16, 2019.

This is truly an extraordinary moment: now for only the fourth time in U.S. history a president faces impeachment.

Impeachment is a huge people’s victory.  And let’s be clear—it is a victory born of struggle. The American people from many different walks of life compelled the House of Representatives to take this step.

It may not be the impeachment that some of us wanted—but that’s okay, we’ll take it—rarely can the workers’ and people’s movement determine the battlefield on which it fights. What is determinable is if and how we fight.  And the answer so far has been clear.

The important thing here is that the people demanded impeachment—they understood that the main struggle and the defining issue of our time is the fight to remove Trump and the GOP from office. Nothing could be more important.

The main issue and defining struggle today is to remove Trump from office. Nothing is more important.

In that respect we are living in a broad, democratic anti-right moment. It is at once an anti-racist and anti-sexist moment. We saw this in the women’s marches, we saw it in Charlottesville and its aftermath, and we see it on the picket lines of today’s  strike wave.  We saw it in the eyes of young people  marching against gun violence and climate change.  And we saw it again in the  Kentucky and Virginia  elections.  The march to the ballot box that began in last year’s midterms is continuing.

Of course there are countervailing currents.  A formidable right-wing and even fascist-tinged movement has coalesced around Trump. There is also a huge political center within which both the right and the broad left are contending for influence. But within these political storms, our focus has to be on what’s new and emerging in the struggle to defend democracy and particularly in and among the workers.

Only through defending democracy does the possibility exist to expand it.

And what is new is the ongoing strike wave and worker’s belief that they can win and this extends to the defense of democracy seen once again in Mississippi in the governor’s race. And this is so huge because only through  defending democracy does the possibility exist to expand it. And  one of the hallmarks of today is that the people are also demanding that democracy be expanded. That’s why issues like the right to  “Medicare for All” along with a Green New Deal are resonating.

For this reason, while this is primarily an anti-right, democratic moment,  it’s also a socialist moment, as we argued in the National Board, because people are becoming more radicalized and drawing deeper conclusions about the system.

This socialist moment should not be understood narrowly:  to do so would be a big mistake.  Instead,  the socialist moment  should be understood broadly. It is an affirmative expression, an expression of hope. It is a reach for a positive solution, an expansion of democracy that brings forward the economic and social rights of the people.

It is also a socialist moment: an affirmative expression, an expression of hope.

Look at it this way: we all need something positive to fight for, something to say yes to; yes we can make real change. And that is why Bernie’s campaign and AOC’s victory has generated such a huge conversation. And if you think about it, it’s a conversation about socialism 2.0: about what socialism will look like in our country.  So what if it doesn’t fit our version of what socialism will look like! This moment is a door, a window of opportunity for us to add to and deepen the conversation. Perhaps we should call it the moment of socialist opportunity.

And so as we join the fight around impeachment and in the upcoming election campaign, let’s take the opportunity to have that conversation.

Impeachment will be at the center of struggle.

For now, it’s clear that impeachment will be at the center of struggle for the next several weeks until the Senate trial and vote.  The Communist Party  should actively join the fight. How? By taking a lesson from the college students who held up an “Impeach Trump Now” banner spelled out on their jerseys at a recent football game;  or by hanging banners on highway overpasses; or by joining upcoming demonstrations and rallies organized by the people’s movement. We should send letters to the editor, circulate memes online,  and share articles from People’s World,, and other sources. The point here is that we should work with others to create a groundswell of activity. Impeachment cannot be left to the politicians alone—they need support and pressure from below. By working in this way, we will help create an atmosphere of a workers’ and people’s impeachment.

The hearings in the House are sure to have an impact. They will reveal basic issues around imperialist foreign policy, Trump and Giuliani’s corruption,  the abuse of power, extortion and bribery. They will also point to the undue influence of the alt-right (KKK and neo-Nazis), who led a successful campaign to drive the ambassador from the Ukraine for opposing Trump’s policy. These revelations will undoubtedly change peoples’ minds as the election campaign heats up.

The party has to make the elections our top priority.

And as the election heats up, the party has to make it our top priority by becoming involved in the campaigns in every way possible: by working in the organizations to which we belong, by joining campaigns at the local level, and by continually raising issues and organizing with our mass media.

Already we, at the urging of the CPUSA  Political Action Commision, have been circulating a voter pledge card asking our  members and friends to get involved and promise to vote.  There will be an online version as well for use by email and social media.  Voter registration is also a valuable way of getting out on the street and involving the working-class public.

 With respect to the Democratic Party campaigns, our approach has always been that we don’t endorse candidates from other parties, but rather work to build unity on the issues.  And it is for this reason—issues—that in the current socialist and progressive moment we welcome the candidacies of Sanders, Warren, and other labor-oriented candidates who are women, people of color, and from the LGBTQ community.

Here we must take note of the entry of other candidates into the race with the aim of shoring up the centrist—and big money—contingent. While left-center unity is critical to defeating Trump, it’s unclear what the new candidates have that the centrists whose campaigns collapsed didn’t have, other than perhaps a silver-filled war chest in one case and a silver tongue in another.

Clearly unity here in the broad front against Trump is a critical issue, and while recognizing that an insistence on the most advanced planks of the left cannot be narrowly considered as the basis for it, neither can out-of-hand dismissals of advanced democratic issues.  Had, for example, a public option or free university education not been advanced in past elections, these issues would not have been starting points for some of today’s centrists.  In any event, the issues will be aired, debated, and decided during the primaries and settled in the conventions.

We will work unapologetically to defeat Trump: the fascist danger demands it.

Where we are able, we should get involved with local campaigns and, after the Democratic Party convention, the national campaign to defeat Trump and flip GOP districts. And we will do so unapologetically—the fascist danger posed by the Trump forces must be set back.

How to get involved is important. Hooking up with local labor and grassroots phone banks and GOTV efforts is the best way to build relationships, work toward political independence, and lay the basis for ongoing work.

We should also, where possible, work toward fielding our candidates at the local level. This can be a vital means of exposing the right-wing danger, building political independence, and building the party. All such efforts should be as broadly based as possible.  We had a few local victories in the last election cycle, one of which was led by comrade W. Whitebird in Wisconsin and has resulted in a new party club. Congratulations!

The party is set, primed and ready to go!

Our party since the convention has been working hard to consolidate its achievements and implement decisions. We’re happy to say that this process is largely complete.  We successfully organized regional events around the 100th anniversary in September,  have been on the picket lines  of the GM, Steelworkers, and other strikes.  We joined the Youth Climate Strike in several parts of the country.  And and the Labor Commission  just held a very successful regional meeting in North Carolina.

We’re happy to report that other commissions and collectives are up and running. We remain committed to implementing the Communist youth project. is steadily building readership and winning awards, and the party website has a new editorial collective. And most importantly, we are continuing to grow, with 390 members who have double confirmed  since June, and 3 new clubs plus 14 others in the process of forming.

In other words, we’re set, primed, and  ready to play the role we are duty bound to play in working to achieve the goals we set ourselves at the 31st convention: defeating Trump; laying the basis for broader democratic victories around ending voting suppression, women’s rights, and cutting the military budget; and building the party.  We may be approaching a crossroads, comrades, and that’s just what we’re going to do.

The convention tasked this National Committee with overseeing this process. And each and every member of this body should think about our individual responsibility as a party leader in thinking through and helping achieve our goals and objectives.

In other words, we need to think about what it means to be a member of the NC as the leading body of the party and what it means to lead as a member of a collective.

There are two concepts of leadership: working-class and capitalist.

And you know there are two concepts of leadership our society: a working-class concept and a capitalist concept. The capitalist concept emphasizes the individual. It focuses on being on top, directing, bossing, and ego. The working-class concept  stresses the collective, cooperation, assistance, support, and solidarity.  In the capitalist approach to leadership the individual is exalted over everything and everyone else. The working-class and socialist concept, while recognizing and valuing each person, also acknowledges, accepts, and fights for the wisdom of the collective.

The capitalist concept without a doubt has influence in our ranks. In a bourgeois world such as ours, how could it be otherwise? It is expressed in know-it-allness, in dominating conversations, in not listening, bragging, blaming others, and refusing to abide by and work within collective structures. It also takes the form of meddling in others’ affairs and making decisions for others without consulting.

But we don’t make decisions this way:  we do not have bosses in the Communist Party. We do not give orders and direct people what to do. Our party is a voluntary organization, and decision making is based on consent of the collective.  But for this collective process to work, each and every member of the leadership must participate. And participating means attending meetings, listening, and engaging in a give-and-take.  And it means compromising.  It cannot mean “my way or the highway.”

In this new National Committee each of us should reflect on how we can contribute, assist, and lead in a working-class revolutionary way.  And to the extent that we do this we will help build and lead  a political force to be reckoned with, one capable of transforming society. But let us remember: to transform society we must work to transform ourselves.

And that means developing an introspective, self-critical capacity.  It means taking a personal inventory of what we have done right and what we could have done better. That too is a big part of being a working-class leader.

We will soon publish the new party program, and before I end, I want to say a few words about the role of our party and the working class as placed in the program.

The working class is the center of political gravity and not just group in a coalition.

It’s a helluva of a thing. Profound really.  The notion that the working class is the center of political gravity and not just another item in a list of social forces arranged in a coalition; the idea that it is the mover and shaker of contemporary history; the concept that it is fighting for its independent role; its political independence is the struggle that will determine the course of events; the idea that it must become the leading political, intellectual, and cultural force—these are huge ideas and ones that are continually challenged.

Here I am continually reminded that regarding ideological questions such as these, we cannot take anything for granted, particularly among our new members but not only them.  There is an ongoing need to go back to the basics, and not by just restating old truisms but by taking account of what is new and changing.

There are ongoing questions as to who is the working class today, and even the very future of work in this era of robotics, automation, and big data.  And there are ongoing issues related to the strategies and tactics needed to organize these workers.

Fighting racism remains the central issue for building class and democratic unity.

Even when we talk about the working class this way, we don’t do so narrowly and in isolation from other social forces and their struggles. I’m talking about people of color, women, LGBTQ, movements around climate change, gun violence, etc.—these are independent movements that play a huge role in the struggle. And if you want to talk about revolution, you’ve got to engage with and be part of these movements. This is particularly true with regard to fighting racism, which remains the central issue for building class and democratic unity.

What we say is that we bring forward working-class, anti-racist, and anti-sexist positions to these struggles. And that means connecting them to the deeper problems of the system. It means fighting for unity on these issues.  We used to call that “communist plus”—our added value. That’s what made us unique and at the same time part of the broader movement; it made us separate and at the same a part of huge movements of the day.

Rossana and I feel deeply that the convention set us firmly on the path of applying these concepts. To the degree that we stay on it, develop it, shape it, find ways around the obstacles, down the valleys, and up the hills always looking for the new, we will grow, the movement will grow, and together we will reach the summit of working-class victory and power in this country.


Photo: Alisdare Hickson, ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)



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