The labor, African American, Latino, women’s, environmental, peace and other people’s movements are engaged in a massive campaign to turn our country around in this election year. As part of this many-sided effort, the Communist Party USA held a national conference Jan. 31 titled “Unite to take back our country.” Joelle Fishman, the chair of the CPUSA’s Political Action Commission, delivered the keynote. Excerpts appear below.
The 2004 election is a turning point that will make history one way or the other. The backdrop is the mighty battle being waged by right-wing capitalist interests for hegemony over all the world’s resources, markets and labor. The shocking disparity between wealth and poverty worldwide, and the never-ending search for new sources of profit, set the stage for sharp conflict. The circles around the Bush administration have made it clear they are prepared to use military aggression and curtail democratic rights whenever and wherever they choose, regardless of the consequences for the people of the world.
Business circles are not unanimous, however. When former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill is targeted for exposing the truth that Bush planned to invade Iraq long before 9/11 and when Chief Inspector David Kay is targeted for exposing the truth that there were no weapons of mass destruction, it is clear that this administration is indeed vulnerable.
This election is an ideological battle for hearts and minds. In the next nine months, the Bush administration will raise and spend a record $300 million to convince working people that their interests are the same as the interests of Wall Street. They will engage in tactics to pit one group against the other as a smokescreen cover-up of their own responsibility for insecurity, inequality, pain and suffering.
Ohio AFL-CIO president William Burga says it plain, that the defeat of George Bush is necessary to stand up to “an increasing selfishness and individualist tendency, increasingly conservative and an over-ripe, nearly rotten, capitalist society and culture.”
On Tuesday, Nov. 2, the voters will judge the extremist, life-threatening policies of the Bush administration. The challenge to labor and the African American and Latino communities and women, the challenge to the broad alliance of environment, peace, youth, seniors and other forces, and the challenge to the Communist Party is to provide clarity on the issues, and turn anger into organization and movement-building to get out the vote.
Hope not fear.
The idea that the Bush administration is providing real security is a hoax. They have unlimited resources for the Department of Homeland Security to carry out psychological warfare with orange code alerts. But when it comes to providing aid to financially strapped cities and towns for local fire and police services, the coffers of the Department of Homeland Security are empty.
The use of tax cuts for the rich, plus the largest military budget in our history and spending on the Iraq war, all serve the interests of the Bush administration to bankrupt the federal government so that it can no longer fulfill the role of meeting human needs and providing for the general populace.
Labor and the people’s movement have the job of educating and alerting their members and the entire public about the massive deception, lies, and thievery of the Bush administration, and at the same time raising sights on what is possible to win given the resources in our country.
Labor and the Midwest.
At the core of the all-people’s movement to defeat the ultra-right is labor and its allies, squarely in the cross hairs of the administration’s fire.
The AFL-CIO Labor 2004 program is a very ambitious, all-out effort aimed at the battleground states, especially Ohio, Missouri and Florida, key to winning the presidency. Labor 2004 is centered on 16 swing states with a significant number of union members especially in the Midwest, with a specific action program to reach frequent voters, inactive voters, and new voters.
A national crusade.
Maximum turnout is needed in every state to assure the largest popular vote against Bush. It is not enough to rely on the electoral vote in the battleground states. In order to reverse the reactionary actions of the Bush administration, an overwhelming vote to defeat him is needed in every state. No state should be conceded.
The National Council of La Raza’s Latino Empowerment and Advocacy Project is working jointly with the NAACP National Voter Fund and others toward 1 million new voters. Over 5.7 million Latinos voted in the presidential election in 2000. That number could increase by as many as 1.9 million voters in 2004.
The Unity ’04 Campaign, which comprises 130 African American and labor organizations, is mobilizing to increase Black voter turnout by five percent in 24 states. Special focus is in the South, where 55 percent of the Black population resides, and among youth, which comprise almost half of the Black voting age population. The Unity ’04 Campaign also includes measures to ensure that every voter knows what their rights are at the polls, is able to cast a ballot without fear or intimidation, and has their vote counted in the 2004 elections.
A broad scope of national and statewide organizations are involved in voter registration and education from the National Organization for Women, Emily’s List, Rock the Vote, and the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce, to the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations, youth and senior groups. In the cultural arena, dozens of vocal artists, movie stars, authors and alternative media personalities are taking on the administration.
Many in the peace movement who have not participated in electoral politics in the past are coming to the conclusion that this arena of struggle is primary in 2004. United for Peace and Justice has developed a year of election activities connected to the demand that the occupation of Iraq be ended.
The all-out mobilization to defeat Bush on Nov. 2 is not an end-point. It is a critical and necessary step along the way to much bigger change. There is need for a labor and people’s party in this country that is not beholden to corporate dollars, but rather is people powered and in a position to challenge corporate monopoly head-on.
This intensive year of activity should be carried out in a way that builds a lasting movement able to take on issues of war, poverty and inequality no matter who wins. Such a development would open many new doors for local, state and national independent politics and candidates.
A mighty movement.
The bottom line is that the devastating, dangerous, anti-human, life threatening Bush/ultra-right agenda must be delivered a resounding defeat on Nov. 2. The entire world is grimly watching.
On Nov. 2, let us march on ballot boxes and “Push Bush Out the Door in 2004!”
Joelle Fishman also serves as chair of the Connecticut CPUSA and is an active member of many other groups, including the City of New Haven Peace Commission and the Coalition to End Child Poverty in Connecticut.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*(see related story below)
The CPUSA fires up its members to ‘Dump Bush!’
By Tim Wheeler, Washington correspondent
WASHINGTON – Participants in the Communist Party USA’s conference on the 2004 elections in New York City, Jan. 31, say they returned to their home districts and plunged into voter registration and other election work that bodes well for a huge “dump Bush” vote next Nov. 2.
The daylong “Unite to Take Back Our Country” conference at Winston Unity Center in Manhattan attracted more than 300 delegates from 25 states to hear a main report by CPUSA Political Action Chair Joelle Fishman. There were also speeches by leaders of other organizations, including Rita Haley, president of New York City’s National Organization for Women, who appealed to the crowd to fill the buses for the April 25 March for Women’s Lives in Washington.
Diana Sowry, a school bus driver in Ashtabula County, Ohio, told the conference of narrowly losing her race for a seat on the village council, although a fellow trade unionist did win. “What I liked about that conference was that there were so many people of color, so many youth. It was like a bouquet of flowers, a real cross-section of our country. The Party is on the right track in its analysis of what it will take to pull people together against Bush and the ultra-right.”
She has plunged into the AFL-CIO’s “Fight Back to Take Back Ohio” campaign, a grassroots effort to defeat Bush in a battleground state that he narrowly won in 2000. “Bush carried Ashtabula in 2000 but we believe we can carry this county against Bush in this election. My father-in-law is a staunch Republican and he says this is the first time he is going to vote for a Democrat. He is furious at Bush.”
Debbie Bell of Philadelphia said she and others came to the conference celebrating the re-election of Mayor John Street after an FBI bug was found in Street’s office, typical of the dirty tricks that can be expected. Bush narrowly lost Pennsylvania in 2000. “After the conference, we decided to step up our voter registration work with a special emphasis on our annual May Day event,” Bell said.
Activists from Illinois were immersed in the campaign to elect Barak Obama to the U.S. Senate. Obama won a landslide victory in the March 16 Democratic primary. If Obama wins in November, he would be only the third African American senator since Reconstruction.
“This was a historic victory. It was a victory for political independence and grassroots, coalition, and issue oriented politics over the machine and money,” said John Bachtell, Illinois CP district organizer.
Martina Cruz of Lawrence, Mass., reported to the conference of her first run for a seat on the Lawrence School Committee, which she lost by 14 votes. “Later they found 47 votes that were lost and if they had been counted I would have won,” she told the World. “It was really great to see all of us together at the conference, so many states, so many different backgrounds but standing together. I’m going to run again. We have the voter lists. We know who didn’t vote. We’re going to talk to them about how important it is for them to vote to defeat Bush in November.”
Fernando Martinez of San Antonio, one of 10 delegates from Texas, said the Party in the Lone Star State is in the thick of the fight against Republican gerrymandering that has targeted pro-labor Democrats. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-Texas), chair of the Hispanic Caucus, was declared the loser to his primary opponent, Henry Cuellar, a Democrat with ties to GOP Gov. Rick Perry. Two boxes stuffed with 300 Cuellar votes were found after the votes had been counted. Rodriguez has gone to court charging fraud. “That has to be one of our major concerns in this election. Bush will steal votes, do anything to stay in power,” Martinez said.
A busload of people came to the conference from Connecticut and three high school YCL activists from Hartford stole the show when they told of their determination to help defeat Bush. Brian Steinberg, a participant at the conference from Hartford, said weekly distribution of the PWW in neighborhoods was the key to building a “voting bloc” that has been the margin of victory for several politicians in close races. The Party is now using that base to mobilize a big Connecticut vote against Bush-Cheney next November, he said.
Jarvis Tyner, executive vice-chairman of the CPUSA, just returned from a Party election conference in Los Angeles, a follow-up to the Jan. 31 meeting. “People came from throughout California,” Tyner said. “They were inspired by the grocery workers strike and by the victory in Ingleside when voters rejected a Wal-Mart. Bush is dropping in the polls with questions about the Iraq war and his failure to stop the 9/11 terrorist attacks. These comrades plan to register voters and get them out next Nov. 2 to trounce Bush. Arnold Schwarzenegger is next.”
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