Main Report to the January 12-13 meeting of the National Board, CPUSA

January 30, 2002

Below is the report given by National Chair Sam Webb at the January 12-13 meeting of the National Board. At that meeting, we agreed that the report, as amended by the discussion, would become the basis for the February meeting of the National Committee, and that it would be sent in advance to the NC members, district organizers and club chairs. Where possible, it would be good to share it with friends and ‘coalition partners,’ for input and reaction.

The NC meeting will be opened with a brief update by Sam rather than the whole report. This innovation is a step towards improving the level and depth of the discussion by the National Committee.

Also in this category on the Web site are two other sub-reports given to the 1/12-13 Board meeting, by Joelle Fishman on the 2002 Elections, and on Party building.

Report to the National Board, CPUSA


I want to welcome everyone to our national center and belatedly wish you a happy New Year. I trust that you are raring to go after a restful and enjoyable holiday with friends and family. I hope that is a safe assumption to make.

This meeting of our National Board takes place exactly a month before the next meeting of our National Committee. That meeting should take full measure of the present status and prospects of the struggle against the Bush administration’s fierce offensive against the working class and people at home and abroad. It should also assess our Party’s role in this struggle, including our efforts to enlarge our influence and size.

Thus, our deliberations this weekend should address these questions, not with the idea of foreclosing discussion, but rather as a first word in this discussion that will continue and try to reach more definitive conclusions at the National Committee meeting.

I would propose that we send my opening as amended by the discussion and the sub reports which you will hear later on to the National Committee members. This will give comrades the opportunity to read and digest them prior to the meeting.

This would be a departure from our past practice, but I suspect it will make for more thoughtful deliberations at the National Committee meeting.

If you agree with this proposal then, instead of making a long opening to the National Committee meeting, I can make a brief political update. I’m sure that no one will object to that.

We also might want to consider breaking up into workshops in the late afternoon on the first day. We don’t have to make a decision on this matter now, but we should think about structuring the meeting differently.

Members of the National Committee will probably welcome a break from the old ways of doing things. I say probably because we are sometimes averse to – even downright stubborn about – departing from tradition. At times this is an admirable trait.

At this complex and dangerous juncture in world development, however, it is more a curse than a blessing. In every area of Party life – from internal organization to broad mass politics – we have to think afresh in order to make our fullest impact on present day and future struggles of our class and people. How’s that for a clumsy attempt to segue from the organization of National Committee meetings to world politics?


At the October meeting of our National Committee, we discussed the underlying motivations and objectives of Bush’s ‘War against Terrorism.’

I see no reason to repeat this discussion at this meeting, except to say that the overriding aim of the Bush administration is to utilize this war against terrorism as its entrance ramp to permanently and irreversible solidifying its single super power status in the 21st century.

Yes, its eyes are on oil. Yes, it wants to impose a program of reaction and racism at home. And, yes, it’s determined to gain unchallenged ascendancy over its superpower rivals.

But each of these aims is only a single strand of a wider and integrated policy of US imperialist world domination.

While we could elaborate on this matter at this meeting, I think that we would be wiser to focus our attention on other aspects of this struggle. This I will try to do in this opening report. Hopefully, I will be successful, but I guess that is for you to decide.

The bombing of Afghanistan is in its fourth month. On the surface, the prosecution of the war has gone well in the eyes of the administration. The Taliban government has been toppled from power, its supporters are either dead or on the run, and the Bush administration and its Western European allies have installed a new government.

To be sure, its long-term stability is very problematic. Even now it seems like political power is fractured along tribal lines. The new government brings together disparate groups who warred against one another in the decade of the 1990s.

What the administration has not achieved – and one wonders whether it wants to or not – is the capture of Bin Laden. Up to now he has eluded the US military and its Afghan partners. Where he is is anybody’s guess.

Even though the war seems to be winding down, don’t expect the US military to vacate Afghanistan anytime soon. It appears that the Pentagon is planning on a beefed up military presence there and in that region of the world for the foreseeable future. In fact, it was reported that 500 troops have been dispatched to the Philippines in an ‘advisory’ capacity. Not a significant number but that could change very quickly.


Joining the US military in Afghanistan are troops and personnel from other NATO countries.

In contrast to the war in Yugoslavia, the military phase of this war was for all practical purposes a unilateral mission of the US military. And that is what the Bush administration and Pentagon wanted for sure.

From their vantage point, it was enough for NATO to give its blessings. Its on the ground participation was neither asked for nor desired by US military planners.

What we see emerging – first in Yugoslavia and now more definitively in Afghanistan – is a new global role for NATO. What putatively was a defensive military alliance to deter Soviet aggression has evolved into an instrument to not only protect, but also extend the interests of transnational capital on a global scale.

Furthermore, in this new NATO, Bush foreign policy advisors see a division of labor in the alliance that assigns the Pentagon the role of organizing and executing the military side of NATO’s missions while the other NATO countries perform other supportive functions.

The seemingly successful military campaign in recent weeks to topple the Taliban government unfolded along these lines. It wasn’t just that European leaders were reluctant to deploy troops; the Bush administration and the Pentagon didn’t want them there. And that will be the operational mode for the future as well.


In the eyes of the Bush administration, there are now few, if any, restraints on the projection of American military power around the world. The world has become US imperialism’s oyster.

This is a dangerous illusion that the White House entertains. The trouble is that hundreds of millions of people across the globe could well pay a heavy price for Bush and his aides’ disconnect from reality.

Indeed, it doesn’t take much political imagination to envision a sequence of events and retaliatory actions that could engulf powerful states, now armed with incredibly deadly conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction, in a bloody war.

In such a war, it is no exaggeration to say that whole populations, including the people of our country, could be annihilated.

After all, war has a logic of its own. Violence begets more violence. Events get out of control. The drumbeats of war drown the songs of peace. The use of force becomes the main way to resolve conflicts between nations and peoples.

Let’s face facts: after four months of Bush’s war against terrorism, the world is not a safer place by any stretch of the imagination.

The danger of retaliatory terrorist strikes on our soil has increased. To think otherwise is foolhardy.

India and Pakistan, both of whom have nuclear capability, are building up troops on each other’s border.

The Middle East is a tinderbox, due in large measure to the massive military assault ordered by the Sharon government against the Palestinian authority and the Palestinian people.

The Bush administration’s announcement that it is unilaterally pulling out of the ABM treaty gives a destabilizing impulse to the nuclear weapons arms race and threatens the peace.

Finally, as NATO troops are being transported to Afghanistan and now to the Philippines, Bush’s aides are busy deciding which sovereign state to strike next – some of his aides say Iraq, others say Somalia.

Who knows? It could be either country, or perhaps both, or some other country for that matter, such as Colombia, where peace talks have broken off and a new phase of fighting seems imminent.

What we can be certain about is that a wider war is on the agenda of the Bush administration. And not because of the terrorist threat, but because of the Bush administration’s desire to aggressively exploit the present moment to construct a ‘New World Order.’

What we can be certain about is that in the short space of a few months the positions of US imperialism have been strengthened in nearly every region of the world, beginning, of course, with the Middle East, Russia, and South Asia – not to mention at home.

What we can be certain about is that the prosecution of the Afghan war has further stoked the adventuristic tendencies of the Bush administration.

What we can be certain about is that the world is a more dangerous place now than it was before September 11.


Not everyone is of this mind however. Some argue that those who think the world has changed should think again. September 11 in their view is very much like September 10.

This is a very problematic claim in my opinion. Actually, September 11 is very much unlike September 10. The context and texture of the class struggle changed in fundamental ways when commercial jets struck the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.

To be more specific, the most reactionary sections of transnational capital gained the upper on hand on September 11 and have pressed their advantage since then in every arena of struggle.

The many sided offensive that was set in train on September 11 could not have happened a day earlier. It was a non-starter on September 10.

Admittedly, not everything changed. There is always continuity as well as change in the historical process. Capitalism in the attack’s aftermath is much like it was before the attack. The transnational corporations are much the same now as they were on September 10. Imperialism’s aggressive, parasitic, and reactionary nature did not arise in the wake of September 11, but rather has a long history stretching back a full century. And struggles, including winning struggles, such as the Charleston 5, continue.

So in this sense, the world on September 11 is much like September 10.

But our analysis can’t be left at this level of abstraction and generality. If we want to influence politics in a practical way we have to move to a lower level of abstraction. Or, to put it differently, we have to get closer to the ground.

When we do, we find the conditions of struggle have changed markedly in the wake of September 11. The war danger has grown immensely. The erosion of long held democratic rights is proceeding at nearly mind numbing speed. Racist profiling is occurring on an unprecedented scale. And the weight of the economic crisis is falling heavily on the shoulders of the exploited and oppressed.

In short, a rupture, a disjunction, a turning point in world and domestic politics in a right direction took place on September 11.

Not to see this, not to take this in into account, not to see what is new, and not to make all the necessary political adjustments is to render oneself irrelevant in the pressing struggle to win the American people to oppose the offensive of the Bush administration.

You might think that I have constructed a straw man and that no one would say that nothing has changed since September 11.

Perhaps I have. But there is a larger issue here that we can’t lose sight of. And it isn’t whether people on the left think the world has changed -everyone would acknowledge that it has – but rather the issue is: what is the nature of the change that occurred on September 11.

Is the political terrain marginally or qualitatively different? Was there a fundamental shift in the political balance of forces?

I would argue that political terrain of struggle is qualitatively different and what follows is the necessity of the Party as well as the broader movement to adjust everything to the new conditions of struggle, to a changing world.

Has this been done? I would say only partially, but that is not surprising given the unexpected and far-reaching consequences of the terrorist attack. It is imperative, therefore, to recalibrate demands, slogans, and forms of struggle and unity to the new terrain of class and social struggle.

Even our Party’s strategic policy of singling out the Bush administration and the most reactionary sections of transnational capital has to be fine-tuned to the new political situation.

With such tactical adjustments, the fight to curb the war drive of the Bush administration will gather new strength and momentum. By the same token, without such changes, the fight will limp along.


Initially, we assumed Bush’s support would quickly dissipate as the war proceeded, but that didn’t happen. And in hindsight the reasons are apparent.

First of all, the monopoly dominated and controlled mass media obsequiously, and to a greater degree than I can remember, wrapped itself around the war action of the administration. Any pretense of objectivity was set aside. Anchor people shamelessly pledged their support for the war drive. There were no cracks in the media message. Even the film and the music industries jumped on board.

Second, US causalities were few due in large measure to the precision and incredible destructiveness of aerial bombing. Even if we assume that the Pentagon is concealing the actual count of US deaths, the figure is still negligible. The new class of aerial weapons employed in Afghanistan brings some new complications to the struggle to construct a domestic peace majority as well as whets the aggressive drive of US imperialism. It feeds the notion – and a very dangerous notion indeed – that wars can be fought without the loss of US lives.

Thirdly, the Bush foreign policy team has shown more skill and spun their aggressive actions better than we anticipated. There was probably a presumption on our part that they would be clumsy and inept, but they have been cleverer than we anticipated.

Finally and above all, the American people were understandably shaken to their bones by the horrific and tragic attack on our soil on September 11. It left a deep and longer lasting imprint on the psychology and outlook of the American people that has to be taken into account in the struggles ahead. Its memory will remain fresh for a long time to come.

It shouldn’t, however, make progressive and left forces put the war on the back burner until public sentiments shift in a more positive direction. Indeed, an immediate task of the peace movement is to rein in the Bush administration’s desire to expand the theater of military action to another state in that region of the world.


Some people make the point that the American people are more likely to join struggles in the economic arena, particularly given the spreading nature of the economic crisis and the shameless blocking of any stimulus legislation by Bush and Republican congressional leaders.

Others argue that the sweeping attack on civil liberties and the rights of Arab and other immigrant peoples is the main way that broad sections of the American people are going to struggle against Bush and the far right.

Both arguments have undeniable merit. And yet, these struggles have to be connected to the war drive and the overall militarist policy of the administration.

Bush’s war against terrorism is not divisible into discrete and disconnected parts – with the war drive here, the trampling on civil liberties there, and the economic crisis somewhere else. But rather it is an integrated policy with each part intertwined with the other and with the overall policy of war and aggression.

At the same time, not everything is equal in this policy mix. The war drive and the underlying ideological and political assumptions that sustain it are the organizing and legitimizing element of everything else and thus have to be challenged at every turn and in every arena of struggle.

Otherwise, the struggles for economic justice and democratic rights will fall short of their potential to activate millions in struggle against the policies of the Bush administration and the far right.

By the same token, the struggles for peace will limp too unless ways are found to draw broader sections of the people into struggle. This has more than an organizational dimension to it. It is also ideological and political. It compels us to draw on all our tactical ingenuity.

With regard to organizational matters, we should discuss either at the Party peace conference scheduled for the spring or leading up to it, if there is a place for a reinvigorated US Peace Council or its equivalent? And, secondly, if we answer this question in the affirmative, then we have to ask: are activists available to sustain its activity? The answer to the latter question is not obvious.

We should also discuss whether other forms are needed to win particular sectors of the people, particularly labor and the African American people, the Mexican American people and other nationally and racially oppressed people.

We cannot fully answer these questions at this meeting. In the end they have to be discussed and resolved in the broader peace movement.


As for the ideological and political approach to the struggle for peace, I would say just a few words. Recent events have deeply impressed hundreds of millions across our planet that peace is fragile. In some countries, peaceful moments are rare while conflict and violence are the norm. Of course, the experience of our country is different. We assumed that the blood of war would never consecrate our soil. And with the demise of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War that strain in our collective thinking was further reinforced and we felt no pressing need to restrain the war makers and guard the peace.

But the terrorist attack on September 11, the militarist response to it by the Bush administration, and the growing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction have begun to bring us back to our senses regarding the dangers to our survival and the survival of our planet in the 21st century.

We are not pacifists, but we must elevate the struggle for peace and disarmament to a new level. We should echo comrade Fidel Castro’s injunction that conflicts between nations and peoples should be solved without resort to the use of force.

We should demand the dismantling of our military machine, the closing of bases and withdrawal of US military personnel from around the world, and the transfer of resources to human needs. We should call for an end to all aid to repressive governments and urge the UN to establish a developmental fund to which the US would contribute mightily.

We should demand the end of the criminal blockade of Cuba and the release of the five Cuban citizens unjustly languishing in a Miami jail. We should call for a just settlement in the Middle East that guarantees full bodied Palestinian statehood and security for both states and peoples. We should demand an end to sanctions against Iraq and scrapping of the Colombia Plan. We should demand that our own terrorist training camp, the School of the Americas, be closed immediately.

Peace is a universal human value. At the same time, it is a working class value. The working class is the creator of all material and non-material values. Its sons and daughters go off to and die in wars. It pays for wars and war preparations. And it appreciates the preciousness of life.

Sometimes, however, we bring too many assumptions to the table that shortchange and truncate the multi-dimensionality of working people. We imprison them in a narrowly constructed economic shell.

Perhaps this is too strong but at times we construct images of the working class that mirror the ‘bubba’ image of the working class cultivated and promoted by the ruling class. In the popular imagery workers are rough and tumble, white, beer drinking, cussing, a little vulgar, politically backward, and, need I say, male.

At best this is a one-sided image of the working class. Actually it’s a caricature. The US working class doesn’t fit a single mold. Some workers are rough and tumble, others are very gentle. Some drink beer, others are teetotalers. Some never step inside a church, others attend church service every Sunday. Some are male, others are female. Some are white, others are Black and Brown. Some are straight, others are gay. Some are blue collar, others are white collar. Some do physical labor, others manipulate symbols. Some labor in factories, others in fields and offices. Some are native born, others are foreign born. Some are progressive in their political thinking – I would argue most – others are backward.

I dwell on this point, maybe even belabor it, because a caricatured image of the working class negatively affects our ability to struggle. When it figures in our thinking or the thinking of others, even in the slightest way, it becomes a demobilizing force. It discourages bold initiatives. It narrows our approach to and saps our confidence in working people. It is a brake on building the Party and the left among workers and trade unionists.

It is true that economic interests motivate working people – Black, Brown and white. And perhaps at the end of the day, it is the main thing that draws them into struggle.

Nevertheless, we should not take this too far. For other things motivate working people as well – solidarity, dignity, respect, violation of their moral sensibilities, racial and gender oppression, fairness, love of children and nature, preciousness of life, pride in country, and so on – all of these and much more shape their attitudes and influence their actions.

And anyone who wants to understand our nation’s working class, join its struggles, and help to lead it to higher ground has to appreciate the complexity of thought and feeling that informs its actions.


While we are prone to make the inflated claim that the future of our country hangs on the outcome of the next election on our radar screen, in the case of the 2002 elections, such a claim is reality based. No struggle in the coming months offers the same opportunity to slow down and set back the right wing offensive as do the 2002 elections.

Every seat in the House and a third of the seats in the Senate are being contested. Thus, it is realistic to think that the balance of forces could tip further against the far right in the Senate and the control of the House could be taken out of the hands of its right wing.

Such an outcome would be a setback of huge proportions to Bush and his corporate backers. On the other hand, it would represent an enormous victory for progressive and democratic forces across our country. It would boost the confidence and fighting spirit of the labor and people’s movement. It would create new openings for broad mass struggles against the economic crisis, racism, and political repression.

Meanwhile, the struggle for peace and against terrorism would unfold in a more favorable setting. Much of the world would breathe a sigh of relief and the chances of successfully combating terrorism in all of its forms would be enhanced.

It would be a mistake, of course, either now or later to rely on the Democratic Party to lead the struggle. It won’t play that role. Indeed, mass initiatives and legislative demands have to come from labor and the people’s organizations, from the grassroots

By the same token, it would also be a mistake to conclude that the outcome of the 2002 elections is of no political consequence to the struggle against the policies of the Bush administration.

I don’t think that labor and its allies would take such an extreme position. But it is not out of the question to think that the struggle in the electoral arena will not be viewed as the top priority in the coming year by the broad left, including some in our Party and the YCL.

This attitude is explained by the fact that many left and progressive minded people subscribe to the view that the Democrats and the Bush administration are more or less on the same page. And such attitudes have been reinforced since September 11 because of the low noise level among the Democrats in response to Bush’s reactionary drive. How often have we heard others say, or said ourselves, almost gloatingly, that Barbara Lee was the only congressperson who opposed the congressional resolution on the use of force.

The Democratic Party is a capitalist party. That’s been our position for decades and we have no plans to change that assessment. But we can’t determine our political approach to the 2002 elections based on such an abstraction even though it is true.

Our tactical approach has to be more nuanced and textured, especially if we hope to have an impact on practical politics in our country.

In Left Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder, Lenin wrote,

‘In Russia, a lengthy, painful and sanguinary experience has taught us the truth that revolutionary tactics cannot be built on a revolutionary mood alone. Tactics must be based on a sober and strictly objective appraisal of all the class forces in a particular state … as well as the experience of revolutionary movements. It is easy to show one’s ‘revolutionary ‘ temper merely by hurling abuse at parliamentary opportunism, or merely by repudiating participation in parliaments; it’s ease, however, cannot turn this into a solution of a difficult, a very difficult problem’

Notwithstanding great differences in circumstances between then and now, this is still advice that we should ponder.

Even if we see the differences between the Democrats and Republicans as narrowing – a supposition that we too easily make – it does not follow that left and progressive forces should thumb their noses at the Democrats and vacate the political legislative arena until a viable third party comes along.

This is not a politically mature position. There is nothing revolutionary about such a view. The Democratic Party is not about to morph into a people’s party to be sure. And yet, it is heterogeneous in its composition and support. And not all of its elected representatives are cowards or, worse still, in the pocket of transnational capital.

Moreover, a winning struggle against the Bush administration at this moment isn’t possible without the participation of some sections of the Democratic Party.

Divisions within parties of the ruling class, even if minor, should be utilized. It is difficult, probably impossible, to beat a united ruling class. Even in a revolutionary situation, the revolutionary forces have to take advantage of ruling class divisions.

Again Lenin writes:

‘To carry on a war for the overthrow of the international bourgeoisie, a war which is a hundred times more difficult, protracted, and complex than the most stubborn of ordinary wars between states, and to renounce in advance any change of tack, or any utilization of a conflict of interests (even if only temporary) among one’s enemies, or any conciliation or compromise with possible allies (even if they are temporary, unstable, vacillating or conditional allies) – is that not ridiculous in the extreme?’

This is eminently good advice too. But we haven’t fully digested its meaning as it applies to our electoral work and every other arena of struggle for that matter. Our concepts of struggle and our practice are broader than most on the left, but they could be stretched further. They are still a little too cramped, especially now in the midst of this monstrous attack of the far right on nearly every sector of the American people. Such stretching doesn’t diminish the role of the working class, but rather it enlarges it. It enables it to fulfill its role – to lead the whole people in the struggle for democracy and socialism.

We should always be suspect of tactics, slogans and forms of struggle that either reduce us to bystanders or separate us from the main class and social forces – forces that are absolutely necessary to any winning struggle against the Bush administration and transnational capital. We don’t want to be modern day, self-satisfied, smug Neros.


In these elections we want to join with labor, the African American people, the Mexican American people, Asian American people, Puerto Rican people, Native American Indian people, and other nationally and racially oppressed.

We want to join with women, seniors, environmentalists, peace activists, youth, the unemployed immigrants, farmers, and gays and lesbians.

We want join with civil libertarians, cultural workers, human rights activists, and the progressive religious community.

We want to join with all democratic minded people regardless of their class moorings to defeat the extreme right in the 2002 elections.

At the upcoming National Committee meeting, we should give special focus to every aspect of the elections, including the political and practical mobilization of the Party at every level.

As an integral part of those deliberations, we should carefully examine and then decide how we are going to work with the new independent electoral formations, like the Working Families Party, that are gaining a constituency and becoming an electoral force in many states and cities. In addition we should consider the running of communist candidates in carefully selected races.


What happens in November will also depend on what is done now by broad left and center forces to reach and engage tens of millions on whatever level and around whatever issue they are ready to enter the arena of struggle.

Such struggles will take a variety of forms. Mass demonstrations, for example, are one form. Other forms like teach-ins, town hall meetings, delegations to congressional offices, and so forth may resonate more at this moment to significant sections of the American people.

At any rate, forms of struggle have to be fitted to what broad masses of people are ready to do, to the political comfort level of millions.

Currently, environmentalists and their allies are working to block the drilling for oil in Alaska. Seniors and their allies are fighting the administration’s plan to privatize the social security system. Democratic-minded activists and their allies are attempting to prevent Bush’s appointments to the courts, regulatory agencies, and important government posts.

Civil rights and anti-racist activists are struggling to get some movement on legislation against racial profiling, the death penalty, and punitive redistricting aimed at reducing Black and Latino representation.

The women’s movement and its allies are vigorously mobilizing to defend reproductive and abortion rights.

Farmers are fighting for fair prices for their crops and immediate relief.

Of enormous concern to tens of millions is the sweeping evisceration of democratic rights and liberties. The establishment of military tribunals has drawn the ire of some of Bush’s most ardent supporters on the right.

But as unconstitutional as these courts are, they are of a larger piece with measures that would deny elementary rights to 20 million immigrants, undermine basic constitutional protections and liberties, and dramatically reduce the space for political dissent. Ostensibly aimed at combating terrorism, these anti-labor, racist, xenophobic, and repressive measures are turning our nation into a garrison state. If this isn’t enough, Attorney General Ashcroft’s warning that any political dissent ‘aids the enemy’ should send chills up the spine of every democratic minded person. This warning, it seems to me, shares a kinship with the tirades of the anti-Communist witch hunter Joe McCarthy and carries an unmistakable whiff of fascism.


Perhaps the 800-pound gorilla at this moment is the economy. Despite the increasingly optimistic economic forecasts by many mainstream economic observers, we should not assume that the economic downturn will be mild and fleeting. Such a forecast could well turn out to be fool’s gold and is disarming.

We should not rule out an economic downturn of much greater duration and depth than some economic analysts are now predicting. The contradictions and imbalances that brought the long expansion of the 1990s have turned into their opposite and are behind the current contraction in economic activity. Data can be just as easily marshaled to make a case for an L shaped economic cycle as it can for a V shaped one.

The downturn that began in manufacturing several months ago now extends across the full length of the economy. The US economy shrank in the 3rd quarter of 2001 at an annualized rate of 0.4%. This decline is the largest fall in 10 years.

Consumer spending has virtually come to a halt with a huge drop in durable goods such as cars. Spending on new home purchases fell substantially as well despite declining interest rates.

Business investment that is normally the engine of a recovery continued to languish for the second quarter in a row.

And while corporate profits went south, the debt of non-financial corporations went north reaching record levels. Not surprisingly a wave of corporate bankruptcies has occurred, the most notable being that of Enron.

Enron’s sudden demise is a developing story. We have only seen the tip of an ugly iceberg so far.

As more information comes out it will have manifold economic and political repercussions. While Enron was a creature of first the deregulation of the natural gas industry in the late 1980s and then the electricity industry in the early 1990s, and then still later of deregulated financial and commodity markets, it could never have reached the lofty heights that it did on the strength of its economic know how and market manipulations alone. It was a gas company that became a hedge fund with the aid of Wall Street’s elite, like J.P. Morgan, CitiCorp, GE, and its couriers in the Republican Party, especially Bush, Evans, Ashcroft, Gramm and other members of its right wing Republican leadership.

Enron in the short space of a decade went from a relatively medium sized pipeline company in Texas to the 7th largest corporation on the Fortune 500 and a global behemoth. It became an ardent financial supporter of the extreme right and its global offensive. But now it is in shambles, and 4000 workers are without a job and left holding valueless stock.

Just as finance capital jumped in to bail out Long Term Management Group, which was also a hedge fund, we can expect similar measures to cushion and cover up the financial corruption that reaches into a network of corporate suites and the corridors of political power.

As I said this is a developing story and our paper should follow it closely and expose the corruption and dirty dealings. Unquestionably, it will damage Bush, the Bush administration, and the Republican and Democratic parties.

There are also some lessons to be learned about deregulation, free markets, the explosive growth of the financial sector, the deep connections between the far right and sections of corporate America, and the nature of state monopoly capitalism at this stage of its development. We should mine all these aspects of the Enron scandal in the PWW, PA, and our web site. We should also do some muckraking and investigative journalism. We should try to reach as broad an audience as possible. Millions of people are looking for an explanation of the scandal.


The economic downturn brings with it rising unemployment rolls and declining living standards. GM has said that 10,000 workers are being laid off while Ford just announced that it is pink slipping 35,000 workers and closing 5 plants.

Meanwhile, steelworkers in the tens of thousands are staring into the face of permanent job loss as the steel industry implodes. Scotty and other comrades will speak more about this in the discussion.

Similar conditions exist in the textile and apparel industries, most of which is located in small and medium sized southern cities Last year alone saw employment drop by 145,000 and 100 mills closed.

The service sector, after nearly a decade of job expansion, is floundering and layoffs are mounting there as well. Severely affected are temp workers, few of whom have any income protection or health benefits.

While the beginning of the economic downturn predates September 11, the terrorist attack did aggravate the crisis considerably. In addition to weakening consumer and business confidence, the tourist and airline industries are being decimated. 50,000 IAM members lost their jobs in the airline and aerospace industry while 80,000 HERE members are out of work. Many of the latter are immigrants who also the target of the repressive anti-immigrant measures of the Bush administration. Special steps by labor and its allies should be taken to defend their rights. And of course we should be a part of this struggle.

Much like in other economic crises, the African American people, Mexican American people, Puerto Rican people, Asian American people, Native American people and other nationally and racially oppressed saw the gains made in the last years of the previous economic expansion quickly disappear as the economy began to turn down. Official unemployment for these groups is far higher than for the population as a whole and the actual rate is probably close to depression levels.

And let’s not forget this administration and its political partners in Congress are steeped in racism. Indeed, they have spent the past 20 years trying to eliminate every political, economic, and social gain won by the movement for full equality. So little help can be expected from this quarter. To the contrary, the racist assault of Bush and the far right will be stepped up.


Further complicating the economic situation is the fact that the slowdown is worldwide. Robert Reich speaks about the world economy teetering on the brink. No region of the world is experiencing robust growth and some regions and countries are in an economic free fall. Japan appears to be locked in a deflationary spiral while far away Argentina is entering a new stage of economic crisis thanks in large measure to the neo-liberal policies imposed on the country by US imperialism and the IMF.

So, as you can see, the economic slowdown has not been surmounted by any means either here or worldwide. And its human casualties need relief now, not six months from now. And in a variety of forms – extended unemployment benefits, health care, welfare benefits, public works jobs, food stamps, affordable shelter, affirmative action, and so forth.

Unfortunately, the safety net is in tatters. At the federal and state level right wing forces, sometimes joined by sections of the Democratic Party, dismantled much of the existing relief and entitlement benefits over the past decade. And here too the impact is particularly severe on people of color and single mothers.

At the time more thoughtful analysts said that the real consequences and hardship caused by these callous actions wouldn’t be seen until the next economic crisis. Well it’s here now and the lives millions of people are hanging by a thread.

And no help appears to be on the way. At the federal level, Bush and the right wing Republicans in Congress are blocking any economic stimulus that would aid the victims of the crisis and stimulate the economy. And at the state and municipal level elected officials are saying that the till is empty and that budget cuts are in the making.

When combined with mounting layoffs in every sector of the economy it is obvious that a dire emergency is unfolding before our eyes.

Bush won’t acknowledge that the economic stimulus package favored by his administration and the Republican leadership in the Congress is nothing more than a cash give away to the most wealthy individuals and corporations. One particularly outrageous feature of the package is the proposal that the minimum corporate tax, enacted years ago to assure that huge corporations paid some money into the public till annually, be entirely eliminated retroactive to 1986.

Instead Bush will say that Republican stimulus package along with ‘free trade’ is the best way to create jobs.

This fraud has to be exposed. At the same time, support for a real stimulus package that stimulates the economy and provides jobs and emergency relief, particularly to the communities of the racially oppressed, has to be won.

This is a crucial legislative fight. We have discussed some initiatives, but we need to follow up on them. Broad sectors of the American people can be brought into this struggle and every Party and YCL member should find a way to join this battle. Our paper, PA, and our web site can also contribute in special ways.

This is a critical, maybe defining struggle. Its outcome will have a bearing on the survival of millions as well as on the 2002 election campaigns. It will allow millions to take a better measure of Bush and his far right counterparts in Congress.

In all likelihood, economic struggles will take a variety of forms at the city and state level. While there has been some hesitation to engage in militant mass actions since September 11, we should begin to broach the idea. At the AFL-CIO convention Jesse Jackson floated the idea of a march on Washington. While the climate might not be ready for such an action, we should test the waters before arriving at any definitive conclusion.

After all, the steelworkers organized their own tent city in our nation’s capital and they are going back soon. So why can’t other victims of the economic crisis descend on Washington?

And let’s not forget about collective bargaining struggles this year. Almost inevitably they will be bitterly fought out as corporations attempt to scale back on wages, benefits and conditions.

In any event, what is imperative is unity in these economic struggles – working class unity, multi-racial unity, unity of the employed and the unemployed, unity of labor with welfare recipients, and all people’s unity.


The offensive of the Bush administration has a broad sweep to it. Tens of millions, nearly every section of the people, are negatively affected in one way or another. This undeniable fact provides the common thread around which a broad people’s coalition, the likes of which we have not seen since the 1930s, can be constructed.

At the same time, the Bush administration’s policies along with the spreading economic crisis don’t impact in the same way on every section of the American people. The weight is not evenly shared. Some sections of the working class and people are hit harder than other sections. Some experience special forms of oppression and exploitation.

To ignore this unevenness and inequality is a recipe for division in the working class and people’s movements and ultimately leads to defeat.

For this reason, the struggle for broad class unity and democratic advance requires the skillful combination of the democratic demands of specific sectors of the people with the overall demands of the movement as a whole. It is against this backdrop that we should see the fight for equality and against racism.

The war drive, the assault on democratic rights, and the unfolding economic crisis bring with them a new level of national and racial oppression. Moreover, it is a continuation, albeit in new conditions, of a many sided and unrelenting attack against the African American people, the Mexican American people and other nationally and racially oppressed people that began more than two decades ago.

This increasingly intolerable situation demands initiative and action. What is urgently needed is a broadly based and sustained struggle for full political, economic and social equality. An end to racial profiling and the death penalty, support for affirmative action, voter rights and political representation, amnesty for immigrants, defense of public education, living wage jobs, affordable and available health care, a comprehensive and fully funded urban policy, adequate welfare benefits, and so forth, have to become an integral part of a people’s fightback program against the Bush administration.

Such demands not only bring relief to the victims of racist oppression and exploitation, but are also a strategic cornerstone of all forms of unity and a winning struggle for peace, democracy, and economic security for all.

In this regard, the labor movement and white workers especially must vigorously challenge every expression of racism and champion the democratic demands of the nationally and racially oppressed. A victorious struggle against the Bush administration and its transnational corporate sponsors – not to mention the emancipation of the entire working class – depends on such a struggle.

I raise this question because there is a tendency to lose sight of the special oppression and exploitation of nationally and racially oppressed people and the democratic demands associated with that oppression, in the broader struggles of the working class and people’s movements. This is a mistake at any time, but particularly now when such grave dangers are facing our country and the world and when the ultra right has its hand on so many levers of power. Why this is so is worth an extended discussion, but for now suffice it say that much more has to be done to see the struggle for equality as an elementary and indispensable part of the class and people’s struggles against political reaction.

How effectively this is done will go a long way in determining the success of present day and future struggles against the right wing ruling class offensive.


The many sided assault of the Bush administration and the most reactionary sections of transnational capital are setting the objective grounds for a broad all people’s coalition domestically and internationally.

In the front ranks of this broad popular front we hope will be the multi-racial, multi-national working class and its organized sector. And of course labor should be closely allied with its strategic partners in such a front – the nationally and racially oppressed and women.

Prior to September 11, such a front was developing, albeit with all the unevenness and contradictions that one would expect. And labor and its strategic allies were assuming a leading role.

On September 11, however, this evolving coalition was skidded to a crawl, which goes to prove that the actual dynamics of struggle never conform exactly to theoretical models and pure forms. They always have – to use a word Lenin liked – their peculiar features.

And, the events of September 11 were more than peculiar. They were completely unforeseen and unprecedented. They shook the people of our country to their core and the aftershocks are still felt.

Thus it is understandable that the labor led movement went through a period of retreat. And even now it is still catching its breath and finding its legs.

But in the words of the wonderful singer/songwriter Iris Dement, ‘Morning comes around.’

The understandable shock and confusion of September 11 is dissipating. Life is asserting itself. And the muting of political differences is giving way to political divisions on a range of issues, perhaps excluding the war drive of the Bush administration for the moment. Even within the country’s ruling circles, differences are surfacing that, in turn, will help open up possibilities to mobilize broad sections of the people.

It is in this context that our Party has to elaborate its role. And if we do it right we can make a unique contribution and build the party in every district and club. I am firmly convinced of that.

We don’t have to invent the class struggle. The Bush administration is doing that for us. It is setting the agenda of struggle in large measure. And it is hard to foresee that changing in any significant way in the months ahead.

What we have to do is to continue to engage, influence, and bring our ideas on strategy, tactics, program, and unity – not to mention on the nature of terrorism, capitalism and socialism – to the developing struggles and movements, to as wide an audience as we can reach.

To set the record straight, we are not bystanders in relation to the emerging struggles and movements against the Bush administration. We have made notable contributions.

We are active on central labor councils. We are in the leadership of city, state and national organizations. We are activists in coalitions of all kinds. We are contributors to electoral and legislative formations, in some instances leading them. We struggle to strengthen Black, Brown, white unity. We are fighters against racism and for racial and gender equality. And we are joining with others against the Bush war drive.

While we can take pride in our accomplishments, we are not yet adequately focused on the grass roots.

Instead – and I’m not being critical – we have focused on other levels of the movement. But this has to change. Not in the sense of withdrawing from coalitions and movements that operate on other levels, but in the sense of directing everything we do to drawing people from the workplace and neighborhoods into struggle.

Without making a qualitative turn in this direction, it is hard to envision the Party fulfilling its ideological, political, and organizational role in the broader class struggle and democratic struggles, especially as the struggles move to higher stages and gain in scope. It is also hard to foresee how we can build a much, much bigger Party without deeper relations in neighborhoods and workplaces.

Someone once said – and I think that it is true – that building a mass party should not be seen as an end it itself. But it is also true that our role in the broader movements and the movements themselves will limp at some stage if we are not able to build the Party in the course of day-to-day struggles – and particularly among trade union and other activists at the grassroots.

So the question is: how do we deepen our grassroots connections and build a bigger Party?

First of all, a sound political approach is fundamental which for the most part I think that we have. In addition an organizational mechanism is also necessary if we are to deepen and extend our connections to the multi-racial, multi-national working class in the places where they work and live.

Here is where our clubs come into play. No other structure is positioned to sink roots and build the Party at the local level. Lord knows that we can’t do it from our national center on 23rd Street although we can and must assist the process. Nor can it be done at the district level although the districts will play a crucial, perhaps decisive role.

Yesterday we had a discussion about the status and role of the clubs in the overall structure of the Party. I don’t think that we reached any definitive conclusions, but then again that wasn’t our objective. It would be premature to try at this moment. Instead, what we began was a process that should continue at the National Committee meeting where, among other things, we should consider whether it would be fruitful to hold a national conference in June to discuss this question.

In the meantime, we should help every club now to find its legs in the immediate struggles against the Bush driven right wing offensive. One struggle will not fit all although every club should find a way to engage in the electoral/legislative arena this year. As I said earlier the outcome of the fall elections will shape the political landscape of the country in the years to come.

For us to make our fullest contribution at the club and every other level of the Party we have to struggle against old habits that put distance between us and the emerging labor-led people’s coalition. We are shedding narrow concepts, attitudes, and methods of working in the mass movements, but we still have a ways to go.

They’re still too narrowly constructed. They’re still too rigid and too cramped in view of the changing texture and contours of the working class and class struggles. We are sometimes suspicious of individuals and organizations that do not have bona fide working class credentials.

A struggle to first rebuff and then reverse the assault of the Bush administration, however, makes imperative a broad alliance policy. Of course it should be class based, that is, working class based, but it also has to draw in into its orbit a broad array of allies if there is to be any possibility of winning at this moment or later down the road.

Indeed, the chief task of the working class, as conceptualized by Marx, Engels, and Lenin, is for the working class to lead other class and social strata, to win them to its side.

That’s what our policy of concentration is all about. It’s not to enclose the mass production workers into a self-contained shell, but rather to enable the working class to reach every potential ally, every potential opponent of Bush and the most reactionary sections of transnational capital.

Thus at every level of Party activity we should aim to build broad people’s coalitions, not for the purpose of watering down the role of the working class and racially oppressed, but instead to bring them into the lead of these coalitions.

Sometimes the Party and the broad left have to take independent initiative, but we should do it with an eye to winning and reaching broader forces, We should not be satisfied with symbolic actions. Our aim – and I realize that it is a tall order – is to win broad masses to struggle to curb the power of the Bush administration and the reactionary sections of transnational capital.

What masses means exactly will depend on circumstances. At the club level it obviously doesn’t mean winning millions, but it does mean elaborating tactics and practical plans that will win over every victim of Bush’s policies.

Given the complexity of the moment, the sharpness of the struggle, our sound strategic policy and tactical flexibility and our practical initiatives, I believe that we have a unique role to play at the present moment. Not only can we extend and deepen our connections to masses of people, beginning with the working class and racially oppressed, but also we can build the Party and our paper. Our greatest days are ahead of us.


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