This is an FDR/MLK moment

BY:Jarvis Tyner| December 21, 2011
This is an FDR/MLK moment

The following is edited from remarks given at the Nov. 11, 2011 meeting of the Communist Party National Committee.


2012 is a big election year and as we know the stakes are very high. The right-wing Republican opposition unashamedly defends the wealth and privilege of the 1% over the 99% that includes tens of millions who are struggling to survive. These self-proclaimed patriots are willing to wreck our country in order to defeat Barack Obama in 2012 elections. Our party and youth league are an active part of the great democratic mass that is standing against them.

These so called patriots wrap themselves in the flag and claim strict adherence to the Constitution. Those who are elected officials are sworn to uphold the laws of the land. But as we meet today they are organizing in over 30 states (with Koch Brothers and anonymous corporate money) to steal the election by suppressing the votes of Black, Latino and white democrats. They are creating new restrictions to make it much harder for youth who voted in record numbers in 2008 to do the same in 2012.

I say to Mike Huckabee, former Republican presidential candidate, who thinks voter suppression is a joke: what the Republicans are doing is a serious violation of the constitutional rights of the U.S. people. Voter suppression driven by racism and hatred of working people is rooted in the shameful period of Jim Crow. It is no joke. When I think of voter suppression I think of Michael Schwerner, James Goodman and Andrew Cheney — the three civil rights workers, one Black and two Jewish, who were brutally murdered for registering Black people in Mississippi to vote in 1964. People died for the right to vote and those who continue such despicable practices are in violation of the highest principals of any democracy.

If the Republicans and Tea Party gang want people to stop accusing them of racism, there is a solution. They must end their long history of using racist scapegoating and pushing racist policies and practices. After the passage of the Civil rights and voting rights acts in the mid sixties the racist Southern white Democrats (called “Dixiecrats”) en mass joined the ranks of the Republican Party. They were warmly welcomed. Today without their racist Southern base of voters the Republicans could not win the presidency, or any national election. They literally thrive on racism as a party. And that is why there is a virulent racist component to almost every program they advance today.

It begins with the disgraceful attacks on the first African American president. But continues also on the issues of reducing the size of the federal government and privatization, which means that the government will not be able to stop massive corporate abuse of working people.

It means the destruction of vital public services and the jobs of public workers who are disproportionately African American and Latino unionized workers. And the privatization, characterization and destruction of public education are primarily aimed at predominantly Black and Latino school.

The racist component is dramatically present in the incarceration rates for African-American males and the use of the death penalty. Since a higher proportion of African American and Latino workers are members of unions then other racial groups, the Republicans pro-corporate anti-union drive also has a strong racist component. One of the most backward parts of the Republican program is the racist attack on Mexican immigrants.

There is a direct correlation between the level of racism and the fight for democracy, peace and for socialism. In our country in a special way, racism blunts the fight against capitalist exploitation and oppression and US imperialism. These struggles cannot be advanced without an ongoing struggle against racism.

This coming Black History Month should be marked by a renewed offensive against racism. The struggle against racism is central to everything we are fighting for. The struggle against racism must be intensified. “We are not going back! Step up the united fight against racism and for equality!” That should be the theme for our Black history month events. We also want to make a special effort in conjunction with Black history to honor two distinguished communist leaders.

This is the centennial year of the birth of Henry Winston. It is also the 101-year of the birth of Gus Hall. These two outstanding communist leaders represent one of our nations greatest examples of interracial leadership. As a dynamic team these two workers one Black one white left a legacy of outstanding struggle against racism and for working class unity. They left a treasure trove of brilliant writings, practices and theoretical work, which needs to be brought out, studied, circulated widely and made available to reread. We also need to expose the new Jim Crow and the role of racism particularly as it related to the historic 2012 election fight. Without racism they cannot win the election. Racism is central to the rights electoral strategy.

I also think we need to let people know and bring out the policies of Gus Hall and Henry Winston on the class struggle, on building broad united movements of struggle and the critical fight for democracy which permeates every thing they wrote. Our party had clear differences with the liberal John F. Kennedy but in 1960 election our policy was defeat Nixon. Same with 1964 — defeat Goldwater.  In 1968 we had a Presidential ticket but our strategy remained–defeat Nixon. In 1972, when I ran with Gus Hall, the sharpest edge of our criticism was against Nixon.

In 1976, Carter ran against Ford. The sharpest edge of our campaign was against Ford and the Republicans. All the while we have had big differences with the Democrats but policies of the Republican right represented the main danger and the main obstacle to moving forward. The fight to advance the democratic and revolutionary process forward toward greater and greater changes requires defeating the greatest danger. And that is what we did. And the process did go forward.

Obama’s support among African Americans and Latinos remains high even though they have criticisms of him. The leadership of the AFL-CIO also sees shortcomings but supports his re election.

I agree with Sam Webb that “supporting the lesser of two evils” does not explain the tactics accurately. I believe it is building a broad united front against the main danger. That is mature and winning politics. It is true Obama has fallen short on some issues and made concessions and some tactical turns to which we take exception. That was the Obama with out the militant social movement that Roosevelt had during the New Deal.

But an honest assessment of Obama’s overall record will show mistakes but also show he did some remarkable things.

  • The stimulus created and/or saved hundreds of thousands of jobs.
  • The health care bill with will cover 30 million uninsured.

The democratic forces are getting their second wind. Congresswomen Donna Edwards described this period as a “FDR moment.” At the height of the Wisconsin struggle, the Rev. Jesse Jackson described it as a “Martin Luther King moment.”

What were they talking about? They are talking about a new willingness to struggle by democratic masses, about new movements emerging. There is a new movement among the youth. It has a great potential of gaining a deeper understanding of what are winning tactics. Their demands can be won with a broader more inclusive approach. Confrontation with the cops gives the media a reason to frame the issues around law and order, not jobs and taxing the rich, not relief from student loan debt. Higher levels of class and racial unity must be achieved for further progress.

New battle lines have been drawn. The Occupy Wall Street movement and the fight for the American Jobs Act have fired up the democratic forces. They are taking the offensive. We must continue to be fully involved. The announcement that the troops will be withdrawn from Iraq means it’s time for peace action!

The Occupy Wall Street movement based on the reality that the problem is the 1% capitalist ruling class and “we the people” are the 99% majority. That is an advanced idea and in harmony with our anti monopoly strategy. But to mobilize the 99% means building a popular front style movement. Narrow sectarian politics of “my way or the highway” will not suffice. Views that “I will only work with the left, and the center is the enemy” will not mobilize the 99%.

Why are we confident about this point? Because it was the broad united from tactics that our party brought forth that was key to basic change like defeating fascism and that built the New Deal and industrial unions.

Next year we are proposing a national conference on strategy and tactics. How do we get to socialism? The incredible 2011 election victories in Ohio, Mississippi, Arizona, Maine, New Jersey and elsewhere tell us a lot about where masses are at politically. It’s time for action; to mobilize masses for jobs, to tax the rich and to register, educate and mobilize, voters for next November and beyond. The right wing can be defeated in 2012.

Organized labor understands this. The major anti racist organizations under stand this. Arizona shows what is possible. We are in a new era of democratic and progressive upsurge a lot of things are possible.

And I can tell you, comrades, we can criticize Obama, and when it is done in a united front way he has shown that he can be moved. The whole effort of the Congressional Black Caucus and Progressive Caucus to organize town meetings and job fairs, which drew large crowds across the country, played a big role in pushing Obama to come up with his American Jobs Act, which is laying the basis for a big defeat of the right in 2012.

Frankly comrades, speaking as one who has been politically active under nine different presidents — five of the right wing Republicans, four liberal Democrats — all the while pushing for progressive change and the ideal of a socialist USA; from many decades of struggling and pushing for change, nothing Barack Obama has done or failed to do in the last three years is a reason to sit back and not take part in this tremendous historic struggle to defeat the extreme right wing at the polls next year.

We need to treat this like the life and death struggle that it is. As Sam Webb has put it …If you want to know what the Right will do to the country look at what they are doing everywhere they dominate the political and legislative process. What the working class did last week in Ohio, Mississippi, Maine, Arizona and New Jersey showed a high understanding of what is at stake and a determination to reverse the setback in 2010. This battle can be won. For sure, cynicism and pessimism will not lead to victory. It will take a lot of work. There will be setbacks and disappointments no doubt. But we can and must be optimistic: this battle can be won.

The tea party was supposed to be the new majority trend in our country. But where is the tea party now? They are still a well-organized and financed group. They tried to help Walker and Kasich. I’m sure they were working in Ohio, Miss., etc., but they could not match the united might of organized labor, the unity of black, brown and white, Asian Pacific, Native American Indian in struggle. Men, women, youth, old, gay and straight – united nothing can stop us.

Where was the tea party? They had plenty of money but they were out organized, out strategized, and most importantly, their bankrupt ideas are losing support among honest working people. They are not a match for the united power of the organized working people, along with racial and nationally oppressed, youth and students, women, LGBT, peace and justice struggling together in a broad popular front. That’s what is needed to turn the tide.

Our job is to contribute all that we can to maximize that power. And that is what will set the stage for a new progressive era and for a socialist transformation. Big progressive change is closer then we think.

Photo: Jarvis Tyner, center, gets ready to march for voting rights, Dec. 11, 2011, as part of the Communist Party contingent. (Matthew Weinstein




    Jarvis Tyner is executive vice chair of the Communist Party USA and a long-time member of the party's national board.. He was a founding member of the Black Radical Congress and served on its national coordinating committee for five years.

    Tyner was born in the Mill Creek community of West Philadelphia in 1941 and graduated from West Philadelphia High School. He joined the Communist Party USA at the age of 20. After several years working in various industrial jobs in the Philadelphia area, where he was a member of the Amalgamated Lithographers and the Teamsters union, he moved to New York in 1967 to become the national chair of the DuBois Clubs of America, and later founding chair of the Young Workers Liberation League. He was the Communist Party USA candidate for vice president of the U.S. in 1972 and 1976, running with party leader Gus Hall.

    As a leader of the CPUSA Tyner has been an active public spokesperson against racism, imperialism and war. He has written numerous articles and pamphlets and appears on the media, campuses and in other public venues advocating for peace, equality and the socialist alternative. He currently resides in the Inwood section of Manhattan, N.Y., is married and the father of four adult children and one grandchild.


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