What Do We Do During This Upsurge?

North Texas Friends of the People's Weekly World met on the first Wednesday, as we always do, at an Oak Cliff restaurant. We had selected a new ideological article by CPUSA Chairman Sam Web that is in the current Political Affairs.(http://www.politicalaffairs.net/article/articleview/8479/) for discussion. We also thought that Bruce Bostick's op-ed in the current PWW might be considered a companion piece. "The role of the left in current politics" was our theme.

Our discussions are bilingual, and it was a drawback that the Webb article hadn't come out in Spanish yet. But all of us were aware of that there are fiery voices on the left that are trying to burn holes in the progressive American coalition that elected President Obama last November. Various pundits and smaller organizations have been calling for a break in this coalition. In fact, some of them were calling for a break even before the election and before the coalition had formed!

Should we, as responsible activists, be demanding that the banks and auto companies be nationalized? Should we demand single-payer health care take precedence over the general unity of the progressive coalition? Should we demand a condemnation of the Obama administration? Certainly, we all agreed that we are in a time of great opportunities, but what, specifically, should we be doing about it in North Texas?

We realized quickly that the Webb article did not specify what local tactics we should take. One member pointed out that not having specific issues to work on tends to dilute our coalition work. The Bruce Bostick op-ed was more specific, but may have been a little too impatient in tone, according to one participant. Bostick's phrase, "the workers are begging us for leadership," sounds great, but is it really true in North Texas? The unremarkable response to recent public protests indicates that it is not literally true here as yet.

We looked at the historical precedent marked by Franklin Roosevelt's second term. The progressive coalition in that case made great improvements for workers in America, and activists of that time played a very good role.

One important difference between serious communists and less committed political activists is that we stick to the strategy of putting the working class first. "Communists have no interests outside the working class," is more than just a familiar quote from the Communist Manifesto. It is a test that every proposed tactic must pass.

Our discussion brought us toward acknowledging that Webb is right. We should work as hard as we can toward unifying the progressive coalition around workers' needs, not destroying it. Advanced demands such as "nationalize the banks" need to be raised, but not as do-or-die ultimatums that might shatter the coalition. We can make proposals and offer opinions without issuing ultimatums. The workers in North Texas may not be begging us for leadership, but they are more open to ideas than at any time in memory.

Specifically, we emphasized two important areas of work. One of them is to push state government to accept the $555 million in unemployment stimulus funds. The governor is grandstanding on this, as covered in the PWW (http://www.pww.org/article/articleview/15534/ "The Battle Continues Over Unemployment Funds"). We noted that the Texas AFL-CIO was doing a terrific job in this fight, and that church leaders from Dallas Area Interfaith are making it a priority. Our work in that direction has been very good. The broader fight for the right to organize in America is also a very good priority. Both of these issues are thoroughly working class, both of them already have significant support in the larger American coalition, and both of them can benefit from our efforts. We suggested ways to bring more civil rights activists to join the unions and church leaders in this battle.

In Texas, people who commit themselves to building a better world can sometimes feel isolated. Getting together for a monthly discussion invigorates us. We get good ideas, and we tend to focus better on our work. During our May discussion, participants also contributed another $45 to the People's Weekly World.