Remarks to National Committee Meeting CPUSA July 7th-8th 2007

 
July 27, 2007

Sam Webbs report on the overall political situation and Scott Marshalls report on developments in the labor movement and industrial concentration, along with Jarvis Tyners report from the African American Equality Conference, give us the basis for this wonderful meeting and discussion.

This is a few words, building on the approach in those reports, about our role in the 2008 elections — a fight for the future of our country and the planet.

On Friday, I attended a funeral. It was for 24 year old Army Pfc Andre Craig, an African American soldier from New Haven killed in Iraq. He had just come off leave to see his new baby. On the day he was killed, he had called five relatives to say that he was on continuous 24 hour missions and was too exhausted to perform.

We wrote to the family that we are working so hard to end this war, and we are heartbroken about what has happened.

It is precisely to stop such horrible tragedies that we have adopted broad, flexible tactics to isolate the ultra-right in Congress combined with mass action.

Ending the war and bringing all our troops home is why our strategic priority, along with that of labor, women, African American, Latino and women voters, is to end Republican control of the White House and increase the margin in Congress for Democrats.

Of course our fight will continue even if the election is successful, but labor and the peoples alliance will be in a much stronger position to project, organize for, and achieve a program that takes on the multi-national corporations and delivers for working people.

The 2008 election is an acceleration of the fight for basic democracy.

Sam mentioned the Supreme Court. Fridays anti-civil liberties decision on wiretapping, on top of the racist decision on school de-segregation are big attacks on democratic rights. As is the Bush administrations reign of terror on immigrant communities with raids and ideological warfare to create confusion and divisions among the working class.

The ultra-rights attempts to use this racism to bust up the broad peoples electoral alliances can backfire if they are exposed. We have to take on this ideological warfare of the ultra-right and show that the attack on immigrant workers is an attack on all workers and the denial of equal education to African American and Latino children hurts all children.

The Bush administration is greatly weakened. It lost much in the 2006 elections, and has lost much more since. Sections of Republicans are breaking away under intense pressure of public opinion against the war and in anticipation of the 2008 elections.

But we shouldnt be lulled into a lower gear by idea that Republicans cant win in 2008. If the extreme right-wing were already dead, we would see the ability to override the Presidents vetoes and deliver on the promises of the new Congress.

The 2008 election is a fight for independence from the domination of the most reactionary section of transnational corporations.

As has been said this is do-able, and it could be a huge win against the corporate right-wing, but it will be a fierce battle.

To win, the Democrats are going to have to clearly distinguish their program from the right-wing and appeal to the overwhelming majority that opposes the Bush agenda.

In the Democratic presidential field are history making candidates. Their politics range from centrist to left, but as a whole, the field is more progressive than what has come before. It includes a woman, African American, Mexican American, son of a mill worker, and foremost peace leader.

This is a reflection of the 2006 election results, economic conditions, and the mass struggles around peace, healthcare, union rights, immigrant rights and environmental policy.

The most significant development coming up to 2008 is labors approach . Unlike past years, there are no top-down early endorsements that can splinter sections of the union movement against each other.

Instead, a series of forums and candidate debates on the issues are being held. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Firefighters, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), National Education Association (NEA), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), United Steel Workers (USW), Building and Construction Trades and Longshore unions have all held or will hold forums involving thousands of their members in asking questions and evaluating the responses.

The AFL-CIO is completing a series of candidate forums, one for each presidential candidate in different cities, which will culminate on August 7 in a forum for all the candidates in Chicago. Union members are being asked to send in what they want the candidates to address.

As well, the NAACP, the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO), MoveOn, ACORN and Take Back America have heard from the presidential candidates at their conventions.

This process gives a peoples push to the candidates and is serving to strengthen them. It is also serving to define the issues. The candidates are being judged on their positions on the Employee Free Choice Act, complete withdrawal from Iraq, universal health care, public education, good jobs, elimination of poverty, inequality, global warming and trade policy.

These debates and forums can impact on Congress as a pressure to help break or expose the right-wing logjam holding up passage of any peace or pro-worker legislation.

They lay the basis for involvement of many new anti-right-wing voters who have sat it out or voted against their own class interests. Young people are also becoming more engaged especially around student loans, jobs, health care and the environment.

In such an atmosphere our role is pretty clear help build it up, participate, contribute our thinking, and mobilize with our unions and community organizations. As Scott says, the door is wide open.

We should do it in a way that establishes our own constituency, our own club voting blocs that enables us to add to the mobilization of labor and the broad alliance against the ultra-right in these elections, and beyond that to contribute toward a more advanced agenda and victories.

What happens in the 110th Congress will have a big impact on the 2008 elections. The 100 hour program in the House was passed in half the time, but the obstructionism of the right-wing has tied up most peace and pro-worker legislation in the Senate.

This situation was the topic of debate and discussion at the Take Back America conference which had 3,000 participants from 40 states.

On the one hand the theme, This is Our Time,reflected a sense of victory and possibility with the achievement of the 2006 elections. On the other hand there was a deep frustration and impatience at the lack of ability to yet end the war and enact bills in the new Congress.

Nancy Pelosi stressed that a few have gotten through after first being blocked. On July 24 millions of minimum wage workers in our country will get a raise for the first time in a decade.

Some at the conference focused their anger at the Democrats. The members of Congress who participated, a group of the most progressive Representatives and Senators, all delivered the same message.

While acknowledging the reality that there are not enough votes to stop a filibuster in the Senate or to override a veto in the House or the Senate, they emphasized it is possible to overcome that situation by organizing pressure within each Congressional District until the number of votes to pass legislation is reached.

Newly elected Senator Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota expressed the need for continual votes to mobilize the public and getting more Republicans and centrist Democrats to vote against the war. I feel the frustration in this room and in my own state. Keep pushing until we bring the troops home, was her appeal.

This represents an expansion of the inside-outside strategy. As Illinois Rep. Jan Shakowsky put it, there are some of us who are you, referring to members of Congress like herself who come out of community and labor organizing and are now serving in leadership of committees.

Others who participated include Rep. Keith Ellison, Sen.Bernie Sanders, Sen. Amy Klochbar, Sen. Sherrod Brown, Rep. Maxine Waters, Rep. Barbara Lee, Rep. Lynn Woolsey. Rep. Dennis Kucinich in his capacity as presidential candidate gave an outstanding speech in which he called for an end to global warming and global warring.

In the workshop entitled Out of Iraq, Barbara Lee said we are winning because of you. She outlined an intensive summer of visits to members of Congress, letters to the editor, and mobilizations to build support for a vote on fully funded withdrawal in September.

Inside Congress, the Democratic leadership is committed to keep bringing bills back and back again despite lack of votes or veto until they pass. Many bills on Iraq will be brought forward in July.

Outside at the grassroots, labor and allies and the peace forces are called upon to continue broadening public support on the ground to force Bush supporters in Congress to break away one by one.

The entire conference boarded buses to join the Employee Free Choice Act rally at the Capitol the day before it went to the Senate for a vote. This bill also may be brought back again even before the 2008 elections.

There are 33 Senators up for re-election in 2008, including 22 Republicans. Some, like Nerw Mexicos Republican Sen. Domenici, are jumping Bushs ship. The entire House of Representatives is up for re-election as well.

The conference shows that the alliance against the ultra-right is growing stronger and deeper. But it must grow even further to succeed in 2008. Therefore dealing with immigration and issues of racism and poverty are a must. We can find the ways to be helpful including tactics and ideologically through our media.

As Maxine Waters put it, With a progressive agenda that includes poverty and racism, a progressive agenda we can fight for, we can take back America. If not, we wont.

Since then, several Catholic members of Congress called upon their church hierarchy to help them end the war by activating and mobilizing their church members. This initiative provides an opportunity for union members and community activists who are Catholic. It is a pull away from the wedge issues of gay marriage and abortion used to defeat Democrats in 2004, to the unifying issues of peace and ending poverty.

Fundamentally, there is no contradiction between our main goal of a Democratic White House and bigger majority in Congress, and supporting pro-labor progressives in primaries. One can help the other.

As Rosalio Munoz reported, the special election in Californias 37th Congressional District (after Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonalds death) is setting the pace for unity building. African American Laura Richardson, a member of the Machinists union and a State Assemblywoman, won the Democratic primary with the support of the multi-racial labor movement.

Latino labor leaders recognized the importance of maintaining a representative coalition, and went all-out to mobilize their members. The labor phone script called for taking the money out of the war and putting it into peoples needs, also setting the pace for labors leadership for peace.

In Missouri and other states, tactics are under discussion for ballot questions that can trump the divisive tactics of the ultra-right, create unity, excite voters and result in a big turnout. In 2006 ballot questions on the minimum wage served to pull out voters in a number of swing states. In 2008 it may be healthcare.

Voter protection apparatus is also being prepared and put into place by the same coalition of labor and civil rights organizations that worked in 2006 to democratize the elections.

The Internet, Blogs, YouTube and phone messaging are playing a big role in enlarging participation in the election process. This arena gives a new opportunity, for us as well, to contribute to the debates. Plus cultural expressions like the wonderful film Sicko and the worldwide concerts on global warming.

The Political Action Commission will be opening a discussion of trends among independent voters and the role of independent candidacies, as well as the continuing need for Communists to run for local office, as part of the mix.

Our biggest contribution can best come from the Club level, in the neighborhoods and workplaces. That is where people live and work and vote.

We should not think of mass work and Party workas two separate things, which has sometimes been done in the past. Instead of putting one against the other, we take a dialectical approach, unifying them in action. We can work at carrying out Communist work among the masses.

All that we do should be among the people and all that we do should consciously help to build our Party.

Sam emphasizes hands on leadership, and concrete initiatives that can win.

The New Haven Resident Card, providing a document for the undocumented, is a good example. It is the example of a City standing up, and changing the climate, pushed by a strong grass roots movement of immigrants and allies. It is also the example of confusion being created by right-wing forces, which we are working hard to overcome by deepening understanding and broadening unity.

Of course, there are many other examples across the country, some that we have heard about in this meeting.

This weekends discussion shows we can build the Party and YCL and our press as part of this great 2008 election battle for peace, democracy and equality.

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