Ain’t nobody gonna turn us around: Celebrating CP100 in Ohio
Communist Party co-chair Joe Sims. | CPUSA

Editor’s Note: The following text is a speech given by Joe Sims, Communist Party USA co-chair, at a celebration of the party’s 100th anniversary held in Cleveland, Ohio, Sept. 29, 2019.

Happy 100th birthday Communist Party USA! On behalf of the leadership of our fighting party, Rossana Cambron and I want to greet this Ohio celebration of our 100th anniversary. And we’ve got a lot to celebrate. For 100 years, our party has been in the thick of the class and democratic battles of our country—and that includes here in the Buckeye State.

Today, we remember and say the names of Charles Ruthenberg of Cleveland, who led the fight in 1919 to help found our party and became its first general secretary. We remember Joe Dallet of Youngstown, who joined the Abraham Lincoln Brigades and fought and died defending democracy on the battlefields of the Spanish Civil War.

Elizabeth and Gus Hall in 1951. Both were long-time CP leaders who hailed from Ohio. | John Rooney / AP

We remember Gus and Elizabeth Hall, who helped lead the Little Steel Strike in Youngstown and Warren, and who went to jail defending this party’s right to participate in the political process and went on to lead our party for close to three decades. We remember Ed Chaka of Cleveland, who served on our Central Committee; Betty Chaka, who is 102 years old and is still with us still struggling; George Edwards of Lorain, the ex-minister turned steelworker with the pink hard hat, who led the steelworkers rank-and-file movement and the steelworkers retirees. We remember Anton Krchmarek, Pete Coston, Melvin Moore, Jim West and Audrey West, and Roz Sims, who stood strong and fought for our party to survive. I could go on, but suffice it to say it is because of these courageous women and men that we stand here today, able to look back to our past and forward to our future.

These were women and men who, after the picket lines at the steel strike were attacked, with workers killed and heads bloodied, returned to the line day after day until the strike was settled. These were men and women who during the 1950s literally fought their way in and out of swimming pools in Youngstown, Cleveland, Columbus, and Dayton, demanding the right to swim in waters free of bigotry.

They stood beside Paul Robeson and W.E.B. Du Bois in Youngstown and Cleveland when most refused to say their names, offering their homes, churches, and hearts, and allowing their voices to break the silence.

They marched with King on Washington in ’63, stood on the picket line in Lordstown in the ’60s, and protested the Vietnam War. It was these workers who were the first to make the call that led to the AFL-CIO Solidarity Day demonstrations.

Members of the Anna Haas Morgan Club of the Communist Party in Columbus, Ohio, registering voters in Sept. 2018. | Maicol David Lynch

And when the steel industry collapsed in the 1970s and ’80s, it was these Communist workers who led the fight to save our jobs in Youngstown, Cleveland, Gary, and Chicago.

But the eyes of those who came before us were not only fixed on our own struggles here. No, their vision was also cast abroad, and yes, they fought for Mandela’s freedom, a homeland for Palestine, and for an end to the blockade of Cuba.

This, comrades, brothers and sisters, is our history, and ain’t nobody going to take it from us. But I want to say today is that as great as this history is, it is not enough. Today we are called upon to make a new history of engaging in new battles standing side-by-side with our people and our class.

Today we face a challenge as great or perhaps even greater than any in our history. One of those challenges is named Donald Trump, and the group of Ku Kluxers and neo-Nazis grouped around his administration. And that’s what they are: a bunch of Ku Kluxers and neo-Nazis, and don’t let nobody tell you nothing different.

Defeating them is as important as defeating Hitler and Mussolini was during World War II. And that means supporting the effort to impeach Trump in the House of Representatives and his trial in the U.S. Senate. It means bringing every pressure to bear and building a mass movement demanding that Trump be impeached now. We can’t leave it to the politicians—the people have to keep the pressure on.

And obviously, it also means organizing and mobilizing everyone we know to come out and vote in next year’s election because the GOP has to be defeated up and down the ballot: for dog catcher, school board, city council, mayor, state rep.—you name it. It’s hard to imagine how we can move forward without that kind of effort.

Members Rick Nagin, left, and Anita Waters, right, staff a Communist Party table at an event in Ohio. | CPUSA

We’ve also got to support the striking workers at General Motors who are soon to be joined by other autoworkers of the Big Three. It’s the most important strike of the last decade, and a lot will depend on its outcome. Look at it this way: Next year’s election will be decided in the swing states, among them Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin. And this is where a big section of these workers live. If the UAW wins the strike and Trump, the big banks, and GM’s roles are exposed—well, you can guess what that’s going to mean on Election Day.

And while we’re doing all of this, we’ve got to support the Green New Deal. Our towns and cities here in Ohio need to be rebuilt, and they need to rebuild on a sustainable basis. That’s what the Green New Deal provides for: green jobs and a just transition.

Lastly, as we engage in these struggles, we’ve got to build this party. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do. Why? Because our working class and people need the power and vision, the power and unity of a working-class revolutionary party. So we’re going to build this party and ain’t nobody going to stop us. Not Trump, not Pence, not Pompeo, not Stephen Miller. Not GM or U.S. Steel.

And that will be really something to celebrate. Happy birthday, CPUSA!


Joe Sims
Joe Sims

Joe Sims is co-chair of the Communist Party USA. He is also a senior editor of People's World and loves biking.