Southwesterners Study Politics
By Jim Lane
TUCSON -- Activists from Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona joined together at the Salt of the Earth Labor College to sharpen their political skills to meet today's challenges. The main focus was on defeating the far-right ideologues who are draining America and menacing the rest of the world, but a considerable part of the discussion concerned progress in our nation beyond the November elections.
Individual study had taken place before the session. Readings included recent meetings of leadership bodies of the Communist Party, USA, and sections of these Marxist classics:
* Marx & Engels, The Communist Manifesto
* Lenin, "Left Wing" Communism: An Infantile Disorder: An Essay in Marxian Strategy & Tactics;
* Lenin, What Is To Be Done?
* Excerpts from a new collection of short Marxist writings edited by Danny Rubin.
Long-time activists were asked to defer to the newer members and non-communists participating. By show of hands, the activists revealed that they had lately been involved in struggles for labor (about 1/2 the group), peace (more than half), environment, civil rights, and peace (much more than half). Conversation was lively through a marathon Saturday session. Unlike many discussions among progressives today, very little time was taken in complaining about the atrocities of the Bush-Cheney administration. Rather, the activists concerned themselves with how to build a mighty American coalition that can stand against and defeat the ultra-rightists. This strong, well-informed, and unified all-people's coalition will carry our nation forward through November and beyond to the only possible solution: socialism in the United States.
That evening, Arizonans treated their guests to a delicious southwestern-style dinner. When we were pleasantly stuffed, we sat outdoors in a circle and sang labor songs beneath the Arizona skies.
On the second day, the focus was on the special need for a powerful Communist
party in America. People began by explaining their own reasons for joining
or investigating the CPUSA. Some of the comments were these:
* To focus the work of progressive activists
* To confront capitalism
* To develop techniques for victory
* To learn
* To teach
* To provide historical perspectives to people's struggles
* To provide a vision of success
* To provide a framework for analysis
* To be the conscience of society
*To work out analysis within our club collectives
* To energize one another
* To connect our independent struggles...
As the group reluctantly closed discussion, the summarizer said, "We have to use that science to guide our activity, to free the world from this nonsense where we produce, we do the work, and we still have lives of misery!"
Notes: Title of class is "The Party's Strategic Concepts, the 2004 Elections,
and the Role of the Party"
The main point is to highlight how our Party evaluates this moment which is directly tied to the 2004 election struggles and the relationship of forces which can win that battle and the issues which merit being brought forward. How this moment is tied to the fight for socialism in the US and the role of the Party in all phases of struggle is of key importance.
The facilitator started by outlining peculiarities of Southwest: Distance, isolation, languages. She spoke on A. All Peoples' Coalition Against the Ultra-Right
She Asked for people to identify struggles they have been in lately: half were labor, 5/8 peace, environment 1/10, immigrants 1/3, civil righs 11/16.
Working Class. is attacked on all fronts, led by Bush & Cheney
1. What is meant by an all peoples' coalition against the ultra-right? What are the components of the all peoples' coalition? What are the core components? What is the role of the working class and labor relative to the all peoples' coalition against the ultra-right? What is the role of the Party?
Everybody took turns defining "ultra right:" extreme reactionaries, puritans, leaners to fascism, neo-conservatives, nationalists, imperialists, control freaks, globalizers, believers in manifest destiny, transnational corporations, libertarians, enders of "social contract." Capitalists, monopolists, oil industry, hard-right think tanks" robber barons, nuclear war wanters, Patriot Act supporters...
We were asked, "Is it the whole of the capitalist class?'
We were asked, "Why distinguish between "right" and "ultra right?"
Someone pointed out that we need to know who the "ultra right" is in order to sort out friends and enemies.
Facilitator went on with differences between "anti-monopoly front"
and "All people's coalition against the ultra-right."
Someone explained the ultra-right in terms of recent history -- Klansmen, Militiamen, zealots...
How do we reach misinformed workers?
The basis of ultra right is transnationals such as Halliburton. They push Bush
Q2. What is meant by the ultra-right? What is the material bases behind the ultra-right? What is the difference between the all peoples' coalition against the ultra-right and the anti-monopoly coalition? Why does the Party discuss growing dangers to democratic rights but not agree we are on the doorstep of or already in a fascist stage?
Responses: "There are still many who want Democratic rights "We
are experiencing a sharpening of the class conflict."
"Democratic movement is growing"
"Witness theCity Council resolutions against Patriot Act, constant showing of Fahrenheit 9/11, back tracking on delaying elections..."
"Most people are in denial. People should be very fearful. 2000 elections were dishonest"
"We still have freedoms here. Depriving students of education is a worrisome step toward fascism." She contrasted the political atmosphere in some South American countries.
"We don't underestimate the atrocious conditions, but distinguish between fascism and what we have now."
"Fascism not in capitalism's interest right now. They prefer the illusion of democracy."
" What is all-people's coalition?
"We accept supporters across class lines. Our job, tactically speaking, is to beat Bush."
"Infantile leftists stay on the side lines. We have to work with the present situation."
What are components of all-peoples'coalition?
Working class, unions, civil rights, civil liberties, liberation theologists, internationalists, immigrants rights, millionaires like Kerry,
Somebody said the unions were failing the test
Someone else said, "The trend in unions is very good."
Is it labor alone? Or will other forces join in constituting the core?
Kerry is not us. We don't think we will "take back the White House" in 2004
What is role of the party?
Explain need to defeat Bush. Seek unity in struggle
What are the factors favorable and unfavorable to achieving our aim of defeating Bush and the Republican Congress in the 2004 elections? What does a Kerry victory mean relative to the continuation of the struggle to defeat the ultra right and turning our attention to building the general anti-monopoly people's coalition?
Better voter registration but ultra right ideology hurts us. Ultra lefts
hurt our efforts. Bad economy.
Fahrenheit 9/11. Iraq war
If Kerry wins, what do we do next?
"It's a continuous campaign folks, it never stops"
"If we ignored differences on our right, we would be sectarian.
Session II: Class and Other Democratic Struggles
Afternoon facilitator said that Bush got considerable Latino votes. 1976 21M voters were Latino, in 2004 6.8 voters are estimated.
1. What is the difference between class and other democratic struggles? How does the one inter-relate with the other?
2. How do we get from the all peoples' coalition against the ultra-right to socialism?
3. What is the substance (major issues and concerns) of the struggle for unity within the working class? What is the substance of the struggle for unity between the working class and other forces? What is the role of the Party?
We need to democratize the voting procedure
Bush bitterly complained about use of term "class war."
In the days of Marx & Lenin, the working class was not the largest class, yet they named them the key force for any change.
Why does media equate "liberal" with "evil?" to destroy Democratic Party
What would USA be like if PWW had 1M readers?
"Liberalism" advances rights, but supports capitalism.
Bush uses /Big Lie tactic
Arizona Prop 200 for 2004 ballot requires proof of citizenship before receiving
any government services. If one hasn't proved citizenship, the fire dept must
let one's house burn down. "Protect Arizona Now."
Lots of liberals support it because it claims it will keep the undocumented from voting, but they don't vote anywhow
Neither party supports it
One guy likes term "progressives."
People who aren't materialists are very hard to talk with
We should try to convert everybody. "Can we make any progress without taking on the arguments of the ultra-right?"
What is a class?
Peasantry was largely replaced by farm workers
Contribution on SSA and Medicare. ARA will spend money on the Arizona campaign. Seniors much more likely to vote.
Class does not come from income level nor state of mind. Actually, state of mind comes from class.
Discussion on women's special problems
"Socialism is when you really get to be a human being."
"Is there a relationship between all peole's coalition v ultra right and the struggle for socialism?"
"How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" says the old joke: "Practice, practice, practice!"
Objective situation will help. Need for socialism greater today than when Marx & Engels wrote about it.
"Cubans started socialism before they had 80% majority. Che wanted "new
man" and we should start working on that.
2 new movies coming out about Che. One is Bernal, one is Benicio del Toro
that evening we had a party with local activists and dignitaries
We sat under the Arizona sky, full of beans, and listened to labor music
Session III: The Party
Q1. What are the immediate tasks related to building and developing the Party in relationship to the 2004 election battles? What is the role of the club? What are the strengths and weaknesses of your club? What is key now to your club moving forward in the context of the 2004 election struggles?
Facilitator asked what brought people around the Communist Party, member and non members alike: She asked why should people join cpusa? People answered: to learn, because of raw brutality in Guatemala, liked the people, liked the level of activity, Empire Zinc Strike in 1952, desire for workers' rights, understanding gained from study of socialism, desire to understand economics, opposition to racism, desire to improve our working conditions, action instead of talk, rememberance of poverty, respect for youth ful rebellion, awareness of superior union strategy, inspired by Chavez & other Chicano leaders, finally realized that America's problems were systemic, recognized need for collecgive of activist "they walk the walk" "the system sucks" Peace,
"Catholics taught me that sex and communism were bad. When I found out
that they lied about one, I wanted to investigate the other for myself."
"Just want to learn"
A section of the ruling class is the 'ultra right." They rule and an all people's coalition in opposition is forming. Labor, civil rights, and women are the core
We are in the mix with millions who are in motion.
1. Why do we need a Communist Party? What is the role of a Communist Party in general?
2. People anwered: "focus progressive activists, confront capitalism, idevelop techniques for victory, learn, to teach, provide historical perspectives to people's struggle, provide a vision of success, provide framework for analysis, provide conseicne of society, work out analysis withon our club collecgive, energize one another , connect the independent struggle...
We all come from the WC. We are familiar with inequality. How does CP provide an answer for an end to exploitation?
Summary: "The party has a science. We have a vision of the future, and
our vision is socialism."
On problems in socialist countries "If some scientists blow up their laboratory, does everybody else give up being scientists?"
Q. What is role of party relative to all people's coalition?
"You have to start at zero, where people are at. patiently explain"
"What stands in the way of working class persons voting against their own interests?" Answers: Fox news and disinformation, fear of losing jobs, religious reactionaries, idea that war is profitable, false patriotism.
So what do we do?
10 minute break
We had a long rundown on changes in the mountainous South.
"A segment of our class is being dominated by the other class. What
do we do?
This is the challenge that we all face. "In many instances, the way to deal with wrong-minded people is, 'listen to them!'" Don't accommodate or patronize them, though.
Q#2 What is the role of the CPUSA relative to the all peoples' coalition
against the ultra-right? How are the two interconnected? What is the role
of the club?
"Our club is the center of the action in Tucson."
What does your club need to do to improve
Do more listening.
Need more open meetings
Become more approachable, esp with internet. We plan to make web page bilingual
Need a membership committee. Need to know more about history of CPUSA
Q. What are longer range tasks related to building and developing the Party through the structure of the club? How do we get from where we are now to a more advanced level of development? What is the relationship between building the Party through the structure of the club and building the movement?
Public meeting places are good. Red baiting limits us. Don't use communist argot & high flowing French words, Talk the way people talk
All of us are active and involved, but there is a gap between growing the Party and growing the movement. If so, what do we do?
Our weaknesses include not letting younger, newer people speak. Not enough Latinos in Party. We should have more than the % of population. Comrads resist learning Spanish, which shows a certain amt of chauvinism.
Best recruiter is PWW. Members should be more aggressive about recruiting
Communists are not always liked, but they are always respected
"You learn Social Science in the party... it takes effort."
"We have to use that science to guide our activity, to free the world from this nonsense where we produce, we do the work, we still see lives of misery!"