The best hopes and dreams of the U.S. people do not lie with U.S. big corporations or the extreme right-wing movements they sponsor. In fact, the ultimate interest of the majority of our people is in a more democratic, a more egalitarian, and a more peaceful USA.
While only a minority today supports the idea of a socialist USA, and many of them are skeptical and cynical after 1991, it is our firm belief that socialism is still the best way to fulfill their democratic aspirations.
Therefore, I want to make it clear from the outset: the Communist Party USA is solidly committed to the goal of a socialist USA. We firmly believe that a socialist USA is not only possible but, most importantly, it is necessary and achievable.
Having said that, let me quickly add that while we continue to learn much from 1917 Russia, 1945 China and 1959 Cuba, we are dealing with 21st century U.S. and global capitalism. The situation is much more fast-moving, and in many ways it is much more complex and challenging. The revolutionary process in our country has its own unique characteristics. And while U.S. socialism will have much in common with other socialisms, it will create its own model that will have many unique features.
If I can borrow a quote from Lenin used by CPUSA Chairman Sam Webb in an excellent interview in the January 2004 Political Affairs, “All nations will arrive at socialism – this is inevitable, but they will do so in not the same way, each will contribute something of its own to some form of democracy, to some variety of the dictatorship of the proletariat, to the varying rate of socialist transformation in the different aspects of social life. … There is nothing more primitive from the viewpoint of theory or more ridiculous from the standpoint of practice, than to paint, in the name of historical materialism, this aspect of the future in monotonous gray.”
U.S. struggles and their global impact
When you examine the role of U.S. imperialism in the world today, it’s clear that the fight for democracy and socialism in the U.S. has a big impact on the global political process. The working class, the racially oppressed, and other progressive forces in the U.S. have a huge responsibility to the rest of humanity. Our fight against the ultra-right and for democracy and socialism in the U.S. has to contribute to the global revolutionary and anti-imperialist process.
The main struggle in the U.S. today
The main struggle confronting the progressive forces in the U.S. and all of humanity really is the struggle to defeat Bush and his vast ultra-right conspiracy. That is what is mainly occupying our efforts at this time.
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention this. Tens of millions in our country are now in motion to achieve a great victory for all of humankind by defeating George W. Bush and his “Republican Guards” at the polls on the Nov. 2, 2004.
As we see it, to win this great struggle means we must defeat Bush and Bushism. This will set the stage for a broader struggle for our people’s needs, for global peace and justice. We say that the best way for our people to bring an end to the war in Iraq, and to advance the struggle for peace and justice, is to defeat Bush and the Republicans in the U.S. Congress. That is our priority.
Responsibility to the world and ourselves
U.S. Communists and progressives understand that we have a tremendous responsibility to the rest of the world. But while we fight this battle, we do not see any reason to put the subject of socialism into cold storage. That is true despite, even because of, the huge setback we suffered in 1991. I do not have time to deal with it now, but Bush’s right-wing policies are actually creating a renewed interest in the ideal of socialism among U.S. masses. As one political activist told me recently, “Every day that Bush’s brand of capitalism prevails, socialism looks better and better.” Only with socialism can colossal problems of poverty, disease, inequalities, and environmental disasters be seriously tackled and solved.
The U.S. working class is exploited
The population of the U.S. is 290 million. The work force is 126 million, with about 37 million workers in manufacturing. Working people and their families are the majority of the population. They have the same negative reaction to exploitation and injustice as workers do all over the world.
While it does not compare in severity to some other parts of the world, U.S. working people suffer under capitalism.
• At least 10 million are unemployed.
• Over 43 million are without health insurance.
• Some 34.6 million live below the poverty line, one third of whom (12 million) are children.
• Four million are homeless.
• Personal bankruptcies are at an all time high.
• Millions have to work very long hours, often more then one job, and have to change jobs many times during their lifetime.
Because of the anti-union policies of 14 states, the federal government, and of U.S. corporations in general, only 13 percent of the workforce is unionized.
Racism and national oppression
The U.S. is a class society with a multiracial working class. There are over 80 million people who are classified as minorities. Racial and national oppression are a way of life in the U.S. Founded on genocide against the Native American Indians, the enslavement of the Africans, and the taking of land from the Mexicans, the “rosy dawn” of U.S. capitalism also exploited foreign indentured labor from Asia, Europe and Latin America. Today life for tens of millions of non-white and foreign-born peoples is very difficult.
While there is a middle class among racial minorities in the U.S., most non-whites in the U.S. are working-class people. Millions face discrimination based on race, nationality, and language.
When you deal with the inner-city and poor rural communities, most non-whites start off their life without decent health care and child care. Many are forced to live in poverty, and have to go to poor schools. More than half do not graduate from secondary school; they end up working in low paying, dead-end jobs. In their communities they face drugs, police brutality, unemployment, and hunger.
Drugs, poverty, prisons and war
During the height of the crack cocaine epidemic in the 1980s the Secretary of Health and Human Services pointed out that, statistically, a young man in Bangladesh has a longer life span then a young man in Harlem. This is the impact of the systemic racism of U.S. capitalism.
While this is true, it is also true that the largest group of poor people in the U.S. are white.
Since the 1980s, the prison population in the U.S. has tripled to 2 million. We now have the largest per capita prison population in the world. Half of all prison inmates are African American males who are treated in a racist manner by courts and police. The U.S. is a death penalty country and a disproportionate number of those on death row are Black.
These are all long-term trends of U.S. capitalist democracy. All of these critical problems go unsolved because we are spending billions for war instead of for the people’s needs.
The notion that war is good for the U.S. economy is a cruel hoax. This is the richest capitalist country in the world. We have the material resources to give a decent life to all the people and many suffering around the world. But under capitalism, profits come before people.
In a poll reported in Joe Conason’s recent book, when asked what bothered them most about the U.S. tax system, the majority said they were most troubled by the suspicion that some rich people get away with not paying their fair share. When asked about whether they preferred public spending rather than giving rich people tax cuts, well over 60 percent said they did. On issues of racial equality and women’s equality, 80 percent say they support these objectives. The Bush administration takes a totally opposite point of view.
An illegitimate president
The U.S. people are not right-wing. George W. Bush was installed in the White House by judicial decree, not popular vote. There is a solid right-wing core and a large center that is influenced by the right and the left, but the overwhelming majority of the people are not ultra-right.
Millions took to the street, held teach-ins, and protests of all types in opposition to the war in Iraq. While the incredible peace movements in the U.S. and around the world were not able to stop the war, their efforts did affect the conduct of the war, and made life very difficult for the Bush policy makers. In fact it is the continuing opposition to war that has made it possible for growing numbers in the Congress to oppose the war.
Post Sept. 11, 2001
After 9/11 and the creation of the Patriot Act and Homeland Security, the attack on democratic rights, especially of foreign-born people from the Middle East and those of the Muslim faith, have reached a new and more dangerous level. The attack on labor’s right to organize and other progressive movements has been under assault. The Bush administration’s use of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack to dismember democratic rights has been called a new McCarthyism.
The U.S. administration is not in step with the majority of the U.S. people and they know it. They stay in power and maintain their dominance through the use of extreme demagogy. They are very skillful at lying and scaring people into silence. They use racism to divide and rule. The right-wing, corporate control of the U.S. media to promote the administration’s jingoism, chauvinism, racism, militarism and war is unprecedented. They lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but they also constantly lie about their domestic policies.
Socialism and the fight for democracy
With all of this at stake, it is important to reconnect and underline the fact that the fight for socialism is not possible without a long-term, many-sided, and all-around struggle for democracy. For communists in the U.S., this is the most important question on the path to socialism.
The path includes the struggle for jobs, health care, and democratic rights. It includes the struggle against racism and discrimination. It is part of the struggle for the rights of women and youth. It comprises the fight against discrimination towards lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people. It consists of the struggle for food, clothing and shelter. It incorporates the fight for a clean environment, for peace and the transfer of war spending to human needs.
The fight for socialism encompasses the many struggles against the great privileges of the super rich and corporations.
The class struggle sets the ground to raise consciousness and educate the people through their own experiences. The work of class-conscious people, and people with socialist consciousness, is critical in this regard.
We are not reformist, but any notion that you can win revolution without a fight for democratic reforms is folly. To advance democracy against the high privileges of the super rich, corporations and the military-industrial complex is a fight against the system. The fight for socialism cannot be victorious without the left and the Communists. At the same time the fight for socialism cannot be victorious if it’s a project of the left and Communists only. It has to be a project of millions.
The world has changed
The collapse of socialism in the USSR has changed the world. It has made the world more dangerous and the path to freedom more difficult. It has strengthened the dangerous right wing but it has also heightened pro-democracy and anti-fascist vigilance. We must continue the struggle to build Communist Parties and increase the ranks of those who have the socialist vision. With all due respect and admiration for the Soviet experience, I think the American people will not agree to a socialism of the 1917 variety. And life does not call on us to construct socialism based on that model. In fact, there are no models. U.S. socialism will take into account our own economic, political, and social conditions, democratic struggles, and history. We see a U.S. socialism based on an expansion of the Bill of Rights.
The fight for socialism is more urgent today than ever. At the same time, to ignore the new political realities after 1991, is to fail to adjust and update. When objective circumstances change but Communists don’t, we can lose our effectiveness and ability to achieve the historic mission of the socialist transformation of society.
Before our party are some major battles. Communists believe that the people of the U.S. can be won to the struggle for revolutionary change. The fact is that the best aspirations and hopes of the U.S. people are the best features of socialism. Our ranks are small now. But we are struggling hard and we are not in retreat. We are pushing forward and we will win, because history is still on our side.
Jarvis Tyner is the executive vice chair of the Communist Party USA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article is excerpted from a presentation he gave to the World Social Forum in Mumbai, India, Jan. 16-20.