Political Independence

September 21, 2001

Speech given at the 27th National Convention of the CPUSA.

Esteemed international guests, comrades
and friends,

Welcome to the 27th Convention of our Party.

It was a great honor for me to have been a delegate to
every Convention of our Party since the early sixties. I just want to
say that this looks like it’s going to be a great one. The attendance
is very good. Sam’s report was excellent.
It brilliantly covered a huge amount of territory in a relatively short
time and laid out the basic structure of our Party’s present thinking.
What impressed me most was when I heard a youth say, "Sam’s report
was slammin’!" Do we now have to call him Slammin’ Sam Webb?

Seriously, comrades, the atmosphere here is very upbeat,
very positive and, most importantly, action oriented. I think we are making
real history here today.

In the brief time I have this afternoon, I want to talk
to you about aspects of one of our most complex areas of work: the fight
for political independence.

The Fight for Political Independence

On the Road to Socialism…

Our Party is committed to and actively working for greater
political independence of the working class and all the progressive forces.
We are working for the establishment of a united multiracial labor-based
independent people’s electoral party that could ultimately challenge and
win against the dominant capitalist parties, in every state in the union.
We consider it a necessary goal, on the road to Socialism. While we have
real progress towards such a goal and some promising 3rd party developments,
we do not have such a party today. The question before us is how to build
for such a party. What will it take to bring it about?

Basic Propositions

The class struggle does not stop during election time
– in fact it intensifies, especially on the ideological front. We take
part in elections, therefore, to advance the class struggle, to defend
the interests of the working class and the racially oppressed.

Based on our science we have a higher calling. We are
fighting to defend democracy and achieve advanced democratic change, up
to and including transformational, revolutionary change. Real change is
not possible without the left engaging in electoral politics and the left
cannot build its mass base without participation in electoral politics.
Standing on the sidelines during these big electoral struggles just propagandizing
and waiting for the revolution to erupt spontaneously is the political
equivalent of having "Lotto fever."

Good intentions will not be realized without a consistent
many-sided. day-to-day and long-range fight for democracy and a basic
part of that is working in elections.

Our policy of defeating the greater evil is based on that

The great Lenin once said, "The path to socialism
is through the struggle for democracy." Every trade unionist knows
that this struggle plays itself out everyday on the shop floor around
wages and working conditions. As the old trade union saying goes, What
you win on the shop floor and in your contract can be taken away by the
state legislature or by the Congress if we do not extend that fight to
the broad political electoral arena. To fulfill the good hopes and dreams
of our class and people, we really have no choice in the matter. We must
participate in the big election battles of the day if we want to achieve
our strategic future goals.

It is in the electoral arena where the big-dog capitalists
fight for their short-term and long-term basic class interest. They are
a small minority of the voters but they prevail because of their great
power and money. We enter the electoral arena for the purpose of changing
it and advancing the interests of the working class and its allies. And
we can win with this majority of voters if they are united and organized.

Lessons from the 2000 Elections

The last presidential elections are full of big lessons
for us in this regard.

The ultra right Republicans are a real and present danger
to democracy! The fact that they would resort to stealing the presidency,
through police intimidation, blatant voter fraud driven by extreme racism,
anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic hysteria, should not be taken lightly.
This is a huge threat to all of our rights. But they can be defeated.
In the last election, Gore won the popular vote. The electoral college
victory was stolen and Nader and Gore together received 52% of the total
vote for the presidency. Bush did not win this election.

And after what the right wing majority on the Supreme
Court did who can now say that it doesn’t matter who nominates federal
judges. There must be big struggles ahead to stop them from implementing
their ultra right agenda. As Sam mentioned in his report, we have sharp
criticisms of the Democrats and we are for raising them in battle but
it cannot be denied; on almost all vital questions, the Republicans are
way to the right of the Clinton administration.

Star Wars, energy, environment, education, racial justice,
the death penalty, women’s rights, labor’s rights, gay, lesbian, bisexual,
transgender, and rights. On Cuba, North Korea, China, Vietnam, the Middle
East, Palestinian rights. On almost all vital issues of war and peace,
George W. and his reactionary clique have taken things farther to the
right. And it’s dangerous.

In the post election we must help to build the broadest
unity against the extreme right wing policies of the Bush administration,
including the Greens and all those who didn’t agree with the defeating
the greater evil tactic.

The Jeffords defection shows that there are deep divisions
in the Republican ranks as a result of the Bush agenda. Some Republicans
thought they were electing a moderate but they got Newt Gingrich on crack.

The ultra right Republicans are the main obstacles to
progress and the main danger to the people’s welfare. In order to move
the struggle for democracy forward, including independent politics, it
is necessary to defeat them decisively at the polls.

Split in the Ruling Class

There is a split in the ruling class (the Jeffords move
reflects tha,t too). It is a split that is rooted in the crisis of capitalism,
with the ruling class giving most of its support to the right wing Republicans.
To defeat the ruling class program today we must not ignore this split.
The ruling class never ignores a split on the left. We would be foolish
to ignore divisions in their ranks.

Role of the Working Class

In the struggle for political independence, the role of
the multiracial working class is not secondary or supportive; it is primary.
The US working class is leading this fight. Their class outlook, their
racial and ethnic composition, their size and organized might make their
role decisive. Therefore, if a 3rd party lacks a multi-racial, working-class
base, it will be limited in its impact.

Left/Center Unity —- Black, Brown, White Unity

Without the broad political unity of the Left and Center
on issues, we cannot win. But most importantly there has emerged in the
last presidential election a new Left/Center electoral majority in our
country. It is a unity is based on issues not on ideology. We have to
build on this.

Without Black, Brown, White Unity we cannot win. Everything is being done,
mainly by the right, to split especially African Americans, Mexican American
and other Latino voters. The recent results in the L.A. elections are
a big warning. Antonio Villaraigosa, a progressive Mexican American trade
unionist, lost because of disunity. That means on issues (e.g. immigrant
rights and stopping the bombing of Vieques) and the way they organize
electoral coalitions, they must be fully inclusive of the entire multiracial
population of progressive independent voters. We cannot win without this.

Inside and Out

The main class and social forces needed to build broad
independence are active and vote both inside and outside of the dominant
two parties. We cannot win if we just stand outside and call for a mass
breakaway. Or wait around for that "great left progressive candidate
in the sky" who can win now.

The truth is that the struggle inside has not been exhausted
at this point, especially when the right danger is so great. Many center
and left forces agree with the left and other independents and want to
find the ways to unite. In this period we cannot be afraid to work with
allies who are supporting capitalist politicians in the effort to defeat
the right danger. We are dialecticians, not dogmatists. All great revolutions
and revolutionaries have been flexible enough to separate tactical alliances
from retreats on strategic goals and basic principals. How else can we
break away from the winner take all US electoral system?

We must run our communist candidates in such a way as
to effect the struggle inside and outside. Today’s political realities
dictate this.

On Winner Take All

The most natural thing is for a voter to want to build
a 3rd party and also affect the outcome of a given election? Most voters
would like that option in fact. In fact, most voters around the world
have that option. That’s what proportional representation is all about.
We need an electoral system that reflects the real political diversity
that’s out there. Our voters need choice at the voting booth. We must
work to end the winner take all system; it is totally undemocratic and
a crude device to guarantee corporate control and minority rule. The Working
Families Party option should be explored all over the country.

Along with ending corporate financial control of our electoral
process and as we push our legislative priorities, we need to work to
change the laws that are against voter choice (fusion) all across the
country. This is vital for victory.

Our greatest electoral successes have been in electing
communists to local office. It happens working in local left/center coalitions
based on issues.

In five states we have had really great experiences with
that tactic. The challenge before us now is to make a break and elect
communists to local office all over the country.

Frankly comrades, after what he did in Florida, I think
George W. should be impeached. And I would not rule that out. But above
all, in the next period, we must not ever forget what they did in 2000
and it must continue to be our priority to decisively defeat the right
wing Republicans at the polls in the coming elections. Working in coalition
we can do it.

Thank you


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