Communists see a new landscape for struggles

NEW YORK — Heading the agenda as members of the Communist Party’s national committee gathered here March 24-25 were new developments in the people’s movements to end the Iraq war, win labor and immigrant rights, gain health care for all and uphold democracy. The meeting brought together activists from around the country to analyze developments since the November elections and project the CPUSA’s work to help build the movements for change in the new political landscape.

Featured during the weekend were panel discussions on the antiwar movement and on building the Communist Party and press.

When CPUSA leaders last gathered, shortly after the November elections, it was not yet fully clear how profound a shift had occurred in the country’s political landscape, said CPUSA national chairman Sam Webb. “Now, four months later, it may be a stretch to say a sea change in political relationships has occurred, but it is not too far off the mark.”

Congress is now “a site of real debate, contending forces and sharp struggles,” Webb said. He cited passage in the House of Representatives of the Employee Free Choice Act, a nonbinding resolution against escalating the war and a supplemental spending bill setting deadlines for troop withdrawal from Iraq.

While the far right “retains considerable power and muscle,” Webb said, “its power is far more circumscribed” as the administration’s past sins come home to roost, and millions of Americans are embracing ideas of peace, justice and decency and rejecting preventive war and gross economic and social disparities.

A new progressive political culture is emerging, Webb said, with growing cooperation among forces including the labor movement and organizations for racial and gender equality, and the emergence of new single- and multiple-issue organizations.

Webb and other speakers emphasized the fundamental importance of the House passage of deadlines for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. Webb called the action by a vast majority of House Democrats and two Republicans “a major victory.” The House bill and a similar one heading for a vote in the Senate — the only such measures with a chance to pass in Congress — give legal expression to people’s desire for withdrawal and are creating a new political dynamic to end the war, he said.

Despite its continuing drumbeat against Iran, the Bush administration’s policies in the international arena have shifted toward more “traditional” positions of U.S. imperialism, Webb said. At the same time, he added, the administration has given up many of its domestic priorities, though it will continue to strongly resist all efforts for positive change.

People’s Weekly World labor editor Roberta Wood called the AFL-CIO’s executive council meeting in March “a watershed moment,” with its passage of a powerful new antiwar resolution and its call for universal health care coverage and a trade policy based on international solidarity. The November elections laid the basis for labor to move forward on issues vital to all working people, she added.

Panelists from different parts of the country and different aspects of the antiwar movement emphasized the urgency of supporting meaningful partial demands in Congress as well as comprehensive measures to end the Iraq war. Though some peace organizations don’t see it that way, the vast majority of participants in the broad antiwar movement “feel as we do, that every meaningful piece of legislation to end the war must be supported,” said CPUSA vice chair Judith Le Blanc. Many organizations beyond the traditional peace movement, such as unions, immigrant rights and economic justice organizations, can be brought into the antiwar struggle, including building stronger links with economic issues and working for resolutions in city councils and state legislatures, she said.

Another panel, also featuring activists from around the country, highlighted the importance of grassroots work by Communist Party clubs to help build opposition to the war and support for workers’ and immigrant rights, universal health care and other social and economic issues. They emphasized that growing the party and its press is an integral part of helping to build the people’s movements for change.

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