The “urgency of now” in building the democratic resistance

BY:Joelle Fishman| February 7, 2017
The “urgency of now” in building the democratic resistance

This National Committee report builds on the Resistance Rising: No Hate, No Fear report to the National Board, January 24, 2017.
Trump has begun his term with shock-and-awe tactics, moving as quickly as possible to get as much of his anti-democratic, racist and reactionary program into place immediately.

He is following through on his campaign rhetoric with unconstitutional executive orders, Cabinet and Supreme Court nominees that would roll back and dismantle, and the placement of extremist white supremacists into key appointed positions, most notably fascist-minded Stephen Bannon as chief adviser and permanent member of the National Security Council. Trump refuses to release his tax returns, or fully divest from his business holdings, which would reveal conflicts of interest for domestic and foreign policy.

Trump and the Republicans are on a fast track to  increase wealth for the top 1% by decreasing their taxes, eliminating regulations, sacrificing the environment and courting wars of aggression.

The chilling theme of “America First,” is in reality a theme of  “multi-national corporate profits first.”

To carry out this heist, Trump and the Republicans are using fear and hate to attempt to create splits and divisions within the working class and the 99%.  They are creating mass confusion with so-called “fake news” and “alternative facts.”  They are playing to their base and dismissing the opposition.

When Acting Attorney General Sally Yates did not defend Trump’s Muslim ban, he fired her.  Trump’s actions show that he believes he is above the Constitution and the law, creating a Constitutional crisis.

Around the world capitalism increasingly cannot meet the needs of the people and turns to right-wing extremism to preserve its power and profits.  The growing crisis of capitalism has produced the environment in which proto-fascist movements have arisen in many countries, including the Trump presidency in the United States.

The threat of fascism in our country escalates the struggle for democracy and the urgency for fierce opposition, broad resistance and grassroots organizing.

Gallup’s poll yesterday showed that eight days into his presidency 51 percent of those polled disapprove of Trump.  This is the fastest majority disapproval for any president since Gallup began polling in 1945.

To underscore the undemocratic nature of his actions, it must be emphasized that Trump lost the popular vote by 3 million, and that his signature platform does not have the support of the majority of people in our country.  For example:

Public Policy Polling on January 26 found that “only 34% of voters want to build a wall with Mexico if American taxpayers have to pay up front for it, compared to 53% who are opposed to doing that.”

They found that “the Affordable Care Act is reaching record levels of popularity with 45% of voters supporting it to 41% who are opposed.  Only 30% of voters think the best plan is to repeal the act and start over, while 61% would prefer Congress to keep the Affordable Care Act and fix parts that aren’t working.”

These examples expose contradictions and indicate that with organized pressure there are possibilities to engage voters everywhere including in Republican districts to pressure and influence Congress.

To be successful, this battle for our country’s future must be fought out at every venue:  in the streets, in the Senate and the House, at statehouses and city halls, in the media, and in the courts.

And every tactic has to be employed: pressure on elected officials with phone calls, letters and showing up at their home offices; rallies, marches, civil disobedience, solidarity actions with communities under attack; letters to the editor and use of social media; court challenges connected to mass actions.

What every individual and every organization does each day makes a difference.  Most important is the unity and solidarity of unions and people’s organizations standing up for and with each other in an organized way as part of a broad united front.

The resistance now unfolding is remarkable and unprecedented.

The millions who took part in the Women’s March across the country and the world, the thousands who flocked to airports here and abroad and in local town squares to protest the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim executive orders, the Martin Luther King Day rallies to protect civil rights and voting rights, the rallies across the country to save our health care, and the thousands who rallied at local offices of their U.S. Senators on #ResistTrumpTuesday all engaged a lot of people who had never done anything politically before.  All were nationally coordinated but focused on local action.

The turnouts for the Women’s March in Republican controlled states and cities show the possibility to win big majorities on specific issues. Rejection of racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and misogyny along with fear of the extreme right and fascist danger is giving way to a new understanding and bringing people together across lines.

We were part of all of these. Sharing our different experiences will help us draw conclusions going forward. This includes the great reception we got with our We Won’t Go Back Communist Party banner project at the Women’s March in several states. The CPUSA was a formal partner of the Women’s March along with 500 other organizations.  Digging roots and being a part can build the Party.

Historic numbers of phone calls, letters and turnouts at Senate offices are spurring on more Senate Democrats to lead in opposing the Cabinet nominees.  But the pressure cannot let up on both Democrats and Republicans.

To get a majority vote in the Senate, all Democrats would have to vote together and be joined by three Republicans. Charter school magnate Betsy DeVos was approved by the Senate Committee on Education along Party lines. The fight now moves to the Senate floor. The American Federation of Teachers indicates that three Republicans are wavering: Pat Toomey, Susan Collins and Linda Mukowski. They need to get flooded from their constituents.

As a result of public pressure Democratic Senators are also boycotting committee votes for some of the cabinet nominees, the same tactic that was used by Republicans against President Obama’s nominees. Because of public pressure Andrew Pudzer’s nomination for Labor Secretary has been delayed and he may have to drop out due to his labor law violations against workers he employs.

All of these struggles and the delays and possible wins are important to help change the political climate and up the ante by showing that pressure and resistance does make a difference.

MoveOn, Indivisible, Working Families Party and People’s Action are collaborating with an inside-outside strategy focused on mobilizing weekly coordinated local actions by constituents at their Congressional offices, reminding the elected officials to pay attention to the people who will vote in the next election.  Each week a conference call presents the specific ask for that week. The first call had 60,000 people.  That Tuesday 50,000 people participated in 200 rallies at Senate offices across the country to oppose the cabal of billionaire bigots and generals that make up the cabinet nominees.

The approach is not just to oppose, but also to support solutions.  For example, Medicare for All was reintroduced last week by Rep. Conyers.  The Republicans want to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) but they have nothing in its place, creating a lot of fear for the millions who would be left without coverage.  The demand is growing for “no repeal before replace.”  While working hard against repeal of the ACA, the CT Alliance for Retired Americans meeting this week generally agreed that Medicare for All should be promoted to members of Congress as that solution.

The American Civil Liberties Union spoke on this week’s call about the executive orders for a Muslim ban and immigrant deportation force.  They emphasized that the outpouring at airports to support those who were being held was an important part of getting the national injunction prohibiting the removal of refugees entering the United States.  Ongoing legal challenges are underway on the grounds that the executive orders violate the 1st and 14th Amendments of the Constitution.

This Tuesday in addition to going to Congressional offices local action was called to “Stand for Sanctuary” at city halls and state capitols in favor of local policies that prohibit police from being used as immigration enforcers.

Cities and states are an important part of the resistance.  For example, California Gov. Jerry Brown pledged to defend every man, woman and child against deportations, and to join with other states and countries to take action to stem climate change. Other local governments are considering similar approaches including sanctuary states, cities, schools and campuses.

In addition to welcoming and protecting immigrants, to build unity the concept of Sanctuary City can be expanded to include defense of the rights of Muslims, Latinos, African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, women, young people, unions, LGBTQ as a way of connecting all the democratic struggles.

The immigrant rights and Muslim rights organizations are developing a strategy to pressure Congress.  An emergency national call with Indivisible, the ACLU, the International Refugee Assistance Project, National Immigration Law Center and Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus was held to mobilize constituents to call their Senators and ask that they:
1. Deny unanimous consent to any nominations or activity that requires it.
2. Filibuster any legislation until the Muslim ban is overturned.

People for the American Way is a leader of the opposition to Neil Gorsuch’s nomination for Supreme Court.  Gorsuch was part of the Hobby Lobby decision and consistently favors the interests of corporations over those of workers, consumers, and the public.  He is a likely rubber stamp for Trump’s assault on the Constitution.

Sen Jeff Merkley has already pledged to deny unanimous consent. The challenge will be to put enough pressure on Democrats not to give in, as some have already indicated they plan to do.

Working Families and Our Revolution, Planned Parenthood and others have been holding nationally coordinated community meetings to address local concerns and to line up progressives to run for office in 2017 and 2018.

Keith Ellison’s campaign for chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) fits into this strategy. His Congressional District has the highest voter turnout in the country because he goes door to door year round to respond on issues, including in off election years.  As DNC chair he says he would not just focus on the presidency, but would support progressive candidates for small local offices and for state legislature as well as Congress.

The outpouring of opposition to Trump’s actions has a spontaneous character.  The labor movement and other established peoples’ organizations have a vital leadership role going forward, as does the Communist Party, to help develop the structure and grounding that can sustain and continue to expand the spontaneous resistance.

The AFL-CIO is taking an on-line survey of labor bodies to determine how much participation and what kind of participation their members played on January 21 at the Women’s March.  We should help foster labor’s leadership wherever we are in a position to do so.

There is so much within the resistance to be a part of and contribute to.  We should not be a fire brigade.  Taking into account that conditions vary greatly from one state and city to the next, the National Committee should give a weekly lead to assist the entire Party in mobilizing our members, clubs and Districts alongside our allies.

We have to think through as a national organization, how we put our full force into building clubs and districts that are grounded and can develop ongoing relations in their communities and be a permanent space for collective organizing and education, project a vision of socialism, and grow in size and influence.

Unity is one of our basic contributions to stop the Trump Republican reactionary agenda. We should actively help bring together local unions and community organizations to develop mutual understanding and common actions to protect and defend those who come under attack.

Trump is a mastermind at sowing disunity.  For example: The Dakota Access Pipeline to peel off unions from the resistance and pit unions and Native peoples and environmentalists against each other.  Attacks on immigrants and refugees to pit workers against each other.  Taking credit for TPP withdrawal to peel off unions from the resistance.  As Richard Trumka said, the TPP was dead because of labor and environmental groups, not Donald Trump. In Congress and at the state level, Right to Work (for less) legislation is the big battle right now to further weaken unions, backed up by the Koch brothers money.

Toward keeping the momentum going toward unity, the idea has been projected that African American History Month, International Women’s Day and May Day can become next points to bring together key sections of the resistance: labor, immigrant, women, African American organizations, the Fight for $15. This will build up to the People’s Climate Mobilization on April 29 of which the Communist Party is a partner organization.

In this moment, we are so fortunate to have the People’s World that offers the truth from a working-class perspective.  We have to use it to the max. Trump is now calling CNN “fake news,” to discredit anything that is not Breitbart.  The People’s World can and does expose, it can and does give valuable tools to organize with, it can and does help to influence the political discourse and atmosphere.  The People’s World can and does put local struggles and victories into the mix.

We also have to make maximum use of the Communist Party website to build confidence and share experiences and ideas,

In this shock-and-awe atmosphere we also have to look out for each other as comrades.  We have to find the ways to pace ourselves and welcome loads of new people into the work, those who are outraged by what is happening to their lives, their families and their communities and looking for a political home.

The Political Action Commission has developed a plan of work for 2017.  The Commission will do its best to assist the entire Party to keep abreast of issues, dates, actions and key votes in Congress as well as the development of the resistance movement.  We are paying attention to the 2017 and 2018 elections and the struggle for voting rights as Trump prepares for wholesale voter suppression.  We are encouraging participation in local formations that will field candidates.  Our comrades should be among those running for office.

The final section of last week’s report to the National Board included four ideas and some questions for our work which should also be included here:

1.  Be Bold.  Make the participation and message of the Communist Party USA known as part of our contribution to building unity and solidarity against every attack on democratic rights and human needs.  The response we received at the Women’s March showed that the broad movement welcomes us. Our working-class analysis of the extremist right-wing and the capitalist system, and our strategy and tactics for a broad, united democratic front are needed and appreciated.

How can we help our state organizations and clubs to participate fully with local union and community allies in the resistance to the Trump-Republican agenda, and to make themselves known?

How can we expand our collective approach to the labor movement as key in the resistance in every part of the country, and as critical to fight for unity and solidarity?  What are our experiences with youth organizing around the country?

2. Build our Base at the Grassroots.  All organizations are examining how to connect more closely at the community and neighborhood level.  How can we help our members get involved with these new efforts, especially in unorganized areas?  How can we help our members and clubs connect to local rapid response networks whenever any section of the people or movement comes under attack?

Expanding our clubs as centers of neighborhood resistance can help consolidate the spontaneous uprising into a lasting movement.  In every community people are wondering what they can do about the hate and fear and how they can become involved in their neighborhood.  How can we gear our resources to building and establishing Communist Party clubs that have the capacity to develop relations and strategy and tactics within their own community or election district?  How can we provide the opportunity for districts and clubs to exchange best practices? How can we better utilize the People’s World as a tool with stories about local experiences that can contribute to the advance of that struggle?

3. Expand our Media.
The People’s World is critical as a vehicle of the resistance for the Communist Party and for the broader movement.  It is based on reality not “alternative facts.”  It speaks from a working-class perspective and offers a bigger vision.  It can uncover the truth about the Trump-Republican takeover and what it means for the world. Coverage can be geared to the needs of the battle at the moment.  How can we expand the circulation exponentially? is an important vehicle to introduce the Communist Party to new people online, as well as to provide the resources and examples needed for local organizing by clubs and states.  We should continue to develop our social media strategy and approach including the use of texts for rapid response and events.

4. Sharpen our Understanding.  Big new political developments are unfolding that need deeper analysis. The Winter Marxist Series has been a wonderful contribution and the Strategy and Tactics discussion weekend is coming up.  How can the discussions be shared with the National Board and National Committee for collective consideration in policy making?

This is a profound moment, when we must be at our best for the future of our class, of humanity and the planet.  The extraordinary outpouring for the Women’s March and in opposition to the anti-immigrant executive orders, the nationally coordinated local actions on Congress each week and the mobilizing in many cities all affirm that the possibilities to build a broad, democratic movement that can stem the tide are bursting forth and they are urgent.

It is a critical time.  It is a scary time.  But it is also a very inspiring and hopeful time.  Building on that hope is our future.



    Joelle Fishman chairs the Connecticut Communist Party USA. She is a Commissioner on the City of New Haven Peace Commission, serves on the executive board of the Alliance of Retired Americans in Connecticut and is an active member of many economic rights and social justice organizations. She was a candidate for Congress from 1973 to 1982, maintaining minor-party ballot status for the Communist Party in Connecticut's Third Congressional District. As chair of the CPUSA Political Action Commission, she has played an active role in the broad labor and people's alliance that defeated the ultra-right in the 2008 elections and continues to mobilize for health care, worker rights and peace.



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