NEW YORK — “The right-wing stranglehold on Congress has been broken,” Joelle Fishman, chair of the Communist Party USA’s political action commission, told a meeting of its national committee here, Nov. 18-19. “This election is a beginning in the great task of changing direction in our country.”
Over 80 activists from around the country gathered to assess the Nov. 7 elections and the political agenda for 2007. Fishman opened the meeting with her report, “Carrying the People’s Election Victories Forward,” available at www.cpusa.org. CPUSA National Chair Sam Webb presented a working paper for discussion on the “Nature, Role and Tasks of the Communist Party.”
National committee members from key election states, including Missouri, Ohio, Indiana, New York, Minnesota and Pennsylvania, spoke about political victories and issues motivating the voters.
Fishman said the election results were a mandate to withdraw from Iraq, pass health care and labor reform legislation, and end political and corporate corruption.
She applauded the big role of the labor movement, with unity in action of AFL-CIO and Change to Win unions. Because of this decisive contribution, “labor emerges from this election in a key position to lead,” and its agenda is front and center, Fishman said.
The key forces that enabled the victory made up what she called the “all people’s front.” This coalition of forces was led by the labor movement and included at its core women, youth and the African American and Latino communities. Other democratic forces such as the peace movement, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, environmentalists and other public advocacy groups contributed to the victory as well.
Erica Smiley, Young Communist League USA national coordinator, noted that concern over student loan rate increases and financial aid cuts motivated young voters.
Sounding a caution that the right is already “working to ease the impact of what happened on Nov. 7,” CPUSA Executive Vice Chair Jarvis Tyner urged the party’s leadership body to help push forward a progressive agenda. He highlighted the need for comprehensive immigration reform, aid for victims of Hurricane Katrina and eliminating the worst provisions in the Patriot Act.
Communist Party Labor Commission Chair Scott Marshall emphasized that the new Congress “must pass the Employee Free Choice Act.” This measure, which has already drawn substantial backing in Congress, would make it easier for workers to join or organize unions. It would be a major democratic advance, a victory over anti-labor laws and corporate intimidation that have blocked millions of workers who say they would join a union if they could, Marshall said.
Buoyant from victory celebrations, many participants described their experiences.
A unionist from eastern Pennsylvania said, “Labor walks are transforming workers,” with workers talking to workers about politics and social issues. “If you haven’t done it, consider going on a labor walk, consider ‘taking a hike,’” he urged.
A school bus driver from Ohio said voters there “did not want the same old, same old.” They want someone to “speak the truth that resonates in the belly,” she said. “Health care, Social Security and jobs resonate with working people. It’s about fighting the corporations and stopping privatization.”
Many speakers discussed the role of the Communist Party in their area. Webb’s report, along with many remarks from the floor, projected the necessity of a bigger Communist Party to help broaden and deepen the movement for progressive change in the country.
Elena Mora, New York Communist Party district organizer, said the electoral work showed the correctness of the party’s strategic direction — that the overriding struggle was to decisively defeat the ultra-right. “We worked as hard as we did in this election not in spite of being Communists, but because of being Communists,” she said.
The people’s election victory Nov. 7, Fishman said, shows “our country needs a larger and stronger Communist Party with vibrant clubs in the neighborhoods and workplaces connected to the issues and struggles that will move the people’s agenda forward.”
Now, beginning the new tasks of changing our country’s direction, and looking toward the 2008 presidential elections, “we will have to think through the key issues and tactics and how we can make our contribution” to strengthening unity and moving ahead, she said.
“The Bush agenda is not changed, although he will also have to adjust to the new situation,” Fishman said. “The permanent war policy, privatization of Social Security, punitive anti-immigrant measures, union busting, repression of civil rights and civil liberties are still all on the table.
“So, there will be pulls on the Democrats toward the right in the name of bipartisanship. However, a majority of committees will be chaired by members of the Progressive, Black, Hispanic and Asian Pacific caucuses, which are closer to the grass roots, ready to listen and respond. It will take a struggle to change the direction of the country and fulfill the meaning of this election,” she said.
“The organizing that went into this election victory now has to be turned to organizing grassroots pressure for a people’s needs program.
“Now the work begins,” Fishman said.
plozano @ pww.org
Joel Wendland contributed to this article.