NEW YORK -- In a speech he delivered last Saturday to a members conference of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA), Sam Webb, the party's chairman acknowledged that "it is easy to become frustrated with the pace and scale of change in recent years" but laid out an approach he believes has the potential to shape a bright future for the majority of Americans.
He opened his presentation by listing some of the things that have discouraged workers and their allies. "Nearly every section of the working class...has lost income, job opportunities and rights as the capitalist class has ferociously pressed its offensive," he declared. "The temperature of the planet has tacked upward at rates that...could endanger life." he said, adding, "Wars...and the steady expansion of U.S. military presence worldwide for geo-economic and geopolitical advantage...has continued no matter who occupies the White House."
He noted that the election of President Obama in 2008, which gave people the hope that things would change for the better but has left them with that hope not fully realized. This, he said, should not take away from some of the positive changes that have happened over the past five years including stimulus measures that "put a tourniquet on a hemorrhaging economy, the winding down of two wars, and the expansion of health care to millions formerly uncovered."
The main factor explaining the grim circumstances in which the working class finds itself, Webb declared, "is the one-sided intensification of the class struggle by the capitalist class In fact," Webb said, "the owners of the commanding heights of the economy are exploiting the current economic crisis to double down on their efforts to further shift wealth into their hands - not to mention further weaken, if not destroy, the labor movement as well as other organizational citadels of people's power."
He identified the battle over so-called "entitlements," Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, as the "epicenter" of this offensive, essentially aimed at eliminating the entire New Deal.
Webb did not leave his audience with just a tough analysis to chew on. He went on to explain how, "in the loosely organized movement of the present are early signs of an emerging political force that could well pack the wallop to give the country a new burst of freedom, economic security and peace.
"Hasn't the thinking of substantial sections of the people changed in a democratic, progressive and radical direction?" he asked. "In public opinion polls capitalism's star is sinking downward, while socialism's star is on the rise." Webb then pointed to transformation taking place in the labor movement, environmentalists and unions working together, people entering the electoral arena en masse to elect an African American president twice, and victories against racism, sexism and homophobia to make his case about the potential for fightback.
He said that going forward, what is needed is the building of a movement with "transformative power."
"The task of a movement with transformative aspirations now is to be up to its ears in the struggle for jobs, a higher minimum wage, immigration reform, gun control, preservation of earned benefits programs, sequester reversal, a federal budget that favors peoples needs, cutting the military budget and many more issues at the state and local level."
The same importance, Webb said, should be assigned to going after Republicans in next year's elections. "Defeating the right wing extremists in Congress is the key link in moving the whole chain of struggle forward," he said.
"None of this, of course will be easy," said Webb. "But that can't be a reason not to show up for the battle."
Conference photo courtesy CPUSA.