Communist leader Jarvis Tyner visits Ohio, encourages election turnout
Jarvis Tyner, chair of the New York District of the Communist Party. | Photo courtesy of CPUSA

ATHENS, Ohio—Jarvis Tyner, chairman of the New York District of the Communist Party USA travelled to Ohio University last week to push turnout in the tight midterm elections and to help solidify his party’s organization in the area.

In a speech to students, faculty, and campus workers on Thursday, Oct. 25, Tyner stressed the importance of getting voters to the polls in Athens County, where the university is located, to vote Democrat on Nov. 6. Tyner told those assembled that he’s not himself a Democrat, but said supporting local candidates such as Sherrod Brown, Richard Cordray, and Betty Sutton was key to defeating Trump and the Republican Party’s extreme right campaign.

“If you wait around for the perfect candidate to come along to vote for, you will never have the chance to vote,” Tyner said in his remarks. “This is about fighting racism and eliminating the threat of fascism in this country.”

Jarvis Tyner speaks at the campus of Ohio University, Thursday, Oct. 25. | Maicol David Lynch / PW

Tyner was also in the state to help strengthen the Communist Party’s organizing work among students and young people, a task the party veteran has been devoted to since 1972 when he headed what was then called the Young Workers’ Liberation League. Tyner was invited to Ohio University by campus organizations including the Black Student Cultural Programming Board, the Multicultural Center, the LGBT Center, the Center for Law, Justice, and Culture, and the local “Frida Kahlo” club of the Communist Party.

In addition to its election message, Tyner’s address also delved into the history of the CPUSA, specifically the role played by African-Americans and women in the party. He provided attendees a brief outline history of capitalism in the United States, explaining how Native Americans, African slaves, and Mexicans were among the first to lose their land, resources, and personal freedoms as a result of colonization and imperialist expansion.

“African Americans’ struggle against capitalism in this country didn’t start with the foundation of our party in 1919 nor with the freedom of slaves from bondage in 1865. It started when the first African was kidnapped from the shores of Africa,” he told the meeting.

The two-time Communist vice presidential candidate discussed how his party was founded as a split from the old Socialist Party of America over disagreements around a number of issues, among them the question of how to relate to the Russian Revolution and the “Negro Question.” On the latter, many socialists at the time argued that racial segregation was an issue to be solved in the distant socialist future rather than one to be fought while working within the framework of capitalism. Those who disagreed mostly ended up in the new Communist Party.

Jarvis Tyner with activists and local officials of the Communist Party in Ohio. | Maicol David Lynch / PW

Quoting Karl Marx, Tyner went on to say, “Labor in the white skin cannot be free as long as labor in the black skin is still branded.” Historical African-American figures who have been involved in the party were also discussed, among them Claudia Jones, Angela Davis, Paul Robeson, Henry Winston, Ben Davis, Charlene Mitchell, and W.E.B. Du Bois.

The following afternoon, on Friday, Tyner was hosted for a meet-and-greet session by the university’s Center for Law, Justice, and Culture, where he spoke further on the impacts of capitalism on the African-American community. He also provided one-on-one interviews with student journalists about his life in the movement for socialism and his party’s Marxist ideology.

When asked about the future of socialism in the United States and the role that the CPUSA would play in it, Tyner replied by saying, “U.S. citizens under 30 years of age are interested in socialism now more than ever. Now is the time to rebuild [the Communist Party], and we will do so brick by brick, if necessary.”

Confidently, Tyner said he believes that “Socialism is the future of humankind, and you can bet that the Communist Party will play a role in its establishment.”

The CPUSA will be celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2019.


Maicol David Lynch
Maicol David Lynch

Maicol David Lynch is a member of the National Committee of the Communist Party USA and an activist and organizer in Working America and Indivisible, the national grassroots movement. He writes from New York City and is most passionate about the struggles against imperialism in Latin America and the fight against xenophobia in immigrant communities in the USA.