Communist Party chair declares at convention: “Trump can go to hell!”
John Bachtell, chair of the Communist Party USA, delivers the keynote address at the organization's 31st National Convention in Chicago, June 22. | Al Neal / PW

CHICAGO—Communist Party members must use this “pivotal moment” in history to help bring about a “democratic and transformative upsurge” to radically shift politics and mass thinking in the United States, party chair John Bachtell told delegates gathered here for the organization’s 31st National Convention.

With a series of interconnecting crises facing the world—including the escalating war danger in the Middle East, the climate crisis, and rampant militarization—many see the current moment as one of “despair, fear, and division,” but Bachtell says it is also a “turning point moment” and one of “growing unity.”

Bachtell, who has headed the century-old party for five years, told convention delegates on June 22 they must act in the face of massive resistance by corporate interests and the radical right, symbolized and led by President Donald Trump.

But the right’s anti-worker, anti-woman, anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim moves have energized thousands of people to turn to socialism and to question the entire capitalist system, Bachtell declared in his keynote address. And the CP must be ready to provide people with help.

“We are the champions of the working class. We are part of a global movement for solidarity, peace, and sustainability,” Bachtell added, to applause.

The U.S. party, established Sept. 1, 1919, stands on the shoulders of past leaders and workers, such as Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Ho Chi Minh, Nelson Mandela, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, W.E.B. DuBois, and Angela Davis, Bachtell said.

“The path to socialism we seek is non-violent, hopefully, one shaped by the battle at the ballot box. The working class, particularly people of color, women, youth, and LGBTQ people are the core of the movement. It is a collaborative project shaped by the fight for the fullest democracy” possible and “the fullest flowering” of peoples, Bachtell said.

Bachtell’s address laid out the capitalist threat to the globe, including militarism, xenophobia, racism, and denial of climate change. He also noted the fightback began literally the moment Trump was inaugurated, with the massive and historic women’s march—which included CP members—in 2017.

And he warned the battle will take more than just mobilizing for the 2020 elections.

“Throughout our history, every time the working class wins, there’s been a reaction,” just as there is now. “Powerful capitalist and reactionary forces fear one thing above all else: The growing power of organized labor, people of color, women, and the LGBTQ movement.”

The fight against the capitalist class must be both on the streets, through organizing, and also in the arena of ideas, Bachtell added. The second part is especially important since, as he pointed out, the working class and its allies are not yet settled as to who is the best person to beat Trump next year. Some 24 people seek the Democratic Party’s nomination, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, and former Vice President Joe Biden, among others.

A counter-narrative is also needed, Bachtell noted, as Trump and the extreme right are attempting to sabotage the growing unity of progressives and the left “by spreading lies and disinformation in an attempt to hold power.”

“Economic nationalism is aimed at exploiting” workers’ and peoples’ “fears and insecurities. Class supremacy, white supremacy, and male supremacy have been fused, and corruption and union-busting have been used” in a divide-and-conquer strategy, he explained.

“Defeating the extreme right and the GOP is the most important thing we must do,” including ousting the “fossil fuel, military-industrial complex, and the industrial elite that constitutes its core.”

It will take “maximum unity and alliance with other movements,” he said. “It will take the unity of the left and the center,” including even working with sometimes “unstable and unreliable” interests and “within and alongside the Democratic Party.”

The Communist Party’s organizing for 2020 will center around the major issues that are moving people into action and a positive vision of ideas, Bachtell explained. Those ideas range from strong labor law reform to combating global warming to comprehensive immigration reform, to opposing the Trump/GOP policies and attitudes that foster racism, xenophobia, white supremacy, male supremacy, and more.

Nguyen Tuan Phong, right, of the Communist Party of Vietnam, presents CPUSA chair John Bachtell with official greetings from the CPV during a session of the CPUSA National Convention, June 22. | Al Neal / PW

“And if Trump thinks he’s going to deport one million undocumented immigrants, he can go to hell!” Bachtell declared, to cheers.

To engage in, influence, and lead the fight against the right, the party needs more people, especially young people, Bachtell said. The composition of the convention reflects that increase in youth participation and diversity, a report the day before showed.

One-third of the 202 delegates were aged 44 or under. Some 10.3% were African-American, another 10.3% were Latinx, while 5% were Afro-Caribbean, and 9.2% were Jewish. But only 30% were women—an imbalance the party pledged to work toward improving.

Party membership has surged since Trump entered the Oval Office, and more of its local groups are joining with like-minded social movements to achieve their goals. There is a beacon of hope, Bachtell predicted, in that “many of the forces operating within the Democratic Party today”—along with CP members themselves—“will form the working-class party of tomorrow.”

“Our ideas are now mainstream,” he added, noting that this isn’t the first time. The CP was the among the first advocates for enacting the minimum wage, Social Security, the National Labor Relations Act, Medicare, unemployment compensation, other progressive programs, and to fight against the oppression of African-Americans and fight against fascism worldwide.

“Ours is a vision where walls become bridges, weapons become plowshares, and capitalists go the way of kings and dinosaurs. This is our future if we rise to the challenge.”


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.