Organizing an all-peoples coalition

The following is an excerpt from opening remarks to the National Committee of the Communist Party which met on Nov. 16, 2002 in New York City.

Some of you may be wondering about the relationship between the concept of the all-people’s coalition against the Bush administration and the most reactionary groupings of transnational capital, and concepts like the leading role of the working class and labor, left-center unity and left unity, socialism and fascism.

Let me briefly respond to these concerns, beginning with the struggle for left and left-center unity.

Greater cohesion of the broad left is absolutely necessary. A more organized left will bring political clarity, militancy, a mass sense and an appreciation of the need for unity into the broader people’s coalition.

This presumes, of course, that the left has an orientation towards the center forces and the immediate battles against the Bush administration.

Unfortunately, some on the left underestimate the right danger, are dismissive of the Democrats, and are a little jaded about the labor movement. They prefer “advanced forms of struggle.”

Such an approach may titillate the mind and give some people a warm feeling, but in the end is sterile. The struggle for left unity only makes sense if it is closely connected to the immediate struggles against the Bush administration and the center forces in labor and among African-American, Latino and other racially and nationally oppressed people, women and other social groupings.

In some ways the main challenge for the left is to shed long-held sectarian concepts of struggle. If it does, it will find itself in the midst of and influencing the great struggles of our time. If it doesn’t, it will continue to hang on the margins of political life.

As for left-center unity: this is a concept of unity and a concept of struggle. It is a point of departure rather than an endgame in constructing unity. In the labor movement, for example, our aim should be to unite every section of labor against the policies of the Bush administration – not just the left and center forces, but the entire trade union movement. Admittedly, divisions and conflicting interests do exist and, not surprisingly, the Bush administration is painstakingly trying to win sections of labor to its side.

Nevertheless, these divisions can be overcome. With patience, creative tactics, and pressure from below, every section of the labor movement can be moved to join the battle against the administration. Another objection to the concept of the all-people’s front is that it dilutes the role of the working class and labor. Just the opposite is the case. Never did Marx, Engels, or Lenin envision that the working class should live a solitary political existence.

Instead, these giants of our movement saw the working class as friendly lads or lassies who, in order to secure their own class interests, had to become the most consistent fighter for the democratic rights of other sections of the people. Without such an orientation the highway to a people’s government and socialism would be forever closed.

This leads me to the question of socialism. Even though socialism is not on the people’s action agenda, it doesn’t follow that “mum’s the word.” It is a question of propaganda and we should bring it into the broad people’s movement.

Given the dangers of nuclear annihilation, irreversible environmental degradation, and mounting economic and social crises in many regions of the world, our accent should be on socialism’s necessity rather than its inevitability.

This is much more likely to resonate in people’s thinking. We are about to issue a discussion document on socialism, which we hope will provoke a lively discussion in the Party and beyond.

Finally, some say that the anti-fascist front better fits today’s political circumstances than the all-people’s front. On the surface, it may appear that fascism, U.S.-style, is here or nearly here. But I don’t think that we are at that stage yet. While we don’t want to ignore the fascist danger, neither should we announce its arrival prematurely. There are strong anti-democratic pressures and we are concerned about the direction of this process, but this doesn’t mean that fascism is here or even imminent.

Fascism is the substitution of one form of capitalist rule – bourgeois democracy – for another - terrorist dictatorship. Fascism, in other words, closes down democratic space and requires methods of struggle that are less open, less mass, and largely underground. To adopt such methods now would clearly be a mistake.

Even from the standpoint of the most reactionary sections of transnational capital, fascism would entail considerable risk insofar as it would strip away and remove an essential ideological component of capitalist class hegemony.

Despite the erosion of democratic rights since September 11, there are still channels and space for broad, mass political action, and the task of the left, progressive, and center forces is to draw millions into open struggle against the Bush administration and to defend and expand democratic space. That is the way to respond to the fascist danger.

The author is the national chair of the Communist Party and can be reached at swebb@cpusa.org