Communist Party election campaign says stop Trump with a #VoteAgainstFascism
The Communist Party USA has made "Vote Against Fascism" the central slogan of its election campaign. Here, party members take the anti-fascist message to the streets of New York. | Courtesy of CPUSA

Fascism hasn’t arrived in the United States yet, but the country is closer than it’s ever been. That’s the central message of the Communist Party USA’s election campaign in the closing days of the 2020 race. Determined to see Donald Trump turned out of office, the party is mobilizing its members around the slogan “Vote Against Fascism,” and encouraging the biggest voter turnout possible. The goal is to deliver such a crushing defeat of Trump in the popular vote that it frustrates any effort by the president to sabotage the election results and hold onto power.

In recent months, Republican election theft efforts have escalated rapidly. The traditional schemes of purging minority voters off the rolls, closing polling places, and gerrymandering districts have been ramped up and supplemented with even more dangerous tactics: the destruction of U.S. Postal Service mail sorting equipment to throw off the processing of mail-in ballots, the ripping up of post boxes in Democratic Party-leaning districts, the deployment of an army of GOP “poll watchers” to intimidate voters, and more.

Taken together, the moves by Trump and Republicans have thrown into question whether a fair election is even possible. And that has Communists turning even more red than normal.

“Democracy itself is on the ballot,” argues Joelle Fishman, the chair of the CPUSA’s Political Action Commission. Fishman coordinates the Communists’ election efforts. “As a people, we are in the election fight of our lives to uphold all the democratic rights that have been won over centuries in the ongoing freedom struggle.”

CPUSA members in New York’s Union Square. | Courtesy of CPUSA

Even before Trump won the 2016 election, the Communist Party was warning of a potential fascist turn if he were to take office. In September 2015, John Bachtell, the chair of the party at the time, said Trump’s campaign carried “the stench of fascism.” He pinpointed “35 years of right-wing extremism, beginning with the right-wing takeover of the Republican Party during the Reagan presidency, massive concentration of wealth,” and the consolidation of a right-wing media ecosystem as making a candidate like Trump possible.

Five years later, the reality of Trumpism is perhaps more extreme than predicted. Giant tax cuts have made the super-rich even wealthier, the immigration system has been transformed into another avenue of mass incarceration, white supremacist and police violence has soared, the military-industrial complex is more powerful than ever, tens of millions are out of a job, and well over 200,000 Americans are dead from the administration’s botched pandemic response.

CPUSA co-chair Rossana Cambron’s car sports a number of slogans in Los Angeles. | Courtesy of CPUSA

The Communist Party was already putting all these issues front and center in its election messaging, but the ratcheting up of GOP efforts to steal the race for Trump has prompted the party to make the case that the election is really a battle between Trump and democracy itself.

“We’ve focused on the issues in this election campaign: COVID and the health care crisis, jobs, racist police murder, evictions, and the environment,” Joe Sims, national co-chair of the CPUSA, told People’s World from his office in New York. “Among the issues that cannot be ignored, though, is the attempt by Trump, by sheer force and bullying, to remain in office.”

Sims drew attention to Trump’s repeated refusals to leave power if he loses and his multiple threats against free and fair ballots, saying they lay the groundwork for tossing out the vote altogether. Sims said, “This is what they’re trying to do—by declaring the vote invalid even before it takes place.”

Rossana Cambron, also a national co-chair of the party and based in Los Angeles, says that if it wasn’t already apparent, the danger of creeping fascism is obvious for all to see after Trump’s first debate performance. “The moment I heard Trump say, ‘Stand back and stand by’ in reference to the Proud Boys—refusing to condemn white supremacy—it was very clear that this election is about voting against a fascist government in our country.”

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The centrality of racism in the GOP’s voter suppression strategy is further proof of the administration’s growing fascist tendencies, according to the CPUSA. Fishman says that “Trump’s false witness that mail-in ballots are fraudulent, singling out the majority African-American city of Philadelphia, calling upon the white supremacist Proud Boys, threatening urban centers with militia control” all serve to underscore “what a clear and present danger his cabal represents to the lives and well being of the people of our country and the world.”

The Communists’ election mobilization effort has a number of components. A “Get Out the Vote” pledge campaign aims to sign up thousands to “defeat Trumpism up and down the ballot” and organize their co-workers, friends, and family to do the same. On social media, party members have been blasting out a #VoteAgainstFascism message to followers and supporters.

In cities across the country, Communists have been on the march as part of the movements against police violence and systemic racism. Coronavirus mutual aid efforts have played a key role in many areas, while anti-eviction and tenants organizing are central in others. “Health care, housing, public education, Social Security, union rights, voting rights, and the rights of Black lives are all on the ballot this year,” Fishman says.

In every action and activity, party members have been linking up demands to the need for a massive landslide victory over Trump and the far right at the polls—and the effort to make sure that votes actually get counted after they are cast. Looking even further ahead, the party consistently links the fight to preserve democracy to its long-term struggle against capitalism and for socialism.

CPUSA contingent at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in New York City demand ‘Community Control of Police.’ At left is CP co-chair Joe Sims. | Courtesy of CPUSA

A recent CPUSA statement squarely summed up the Communists’ assessment: “The march to fascism has one, and only one, purpose: to remove any democratic constraints on the power of capital, allowing big corporations to make us pay for the economic, political, and environmental crises they have caused.”

That’s why it’s essential that in addition to getting out the vote, the party argues, people also have to fight to protect the vote from all manners of tampering and interference. “The vote has to be organized, secured, and defended now,” Sims emphasizes.

Marc Brodine, a CPUSA leader in Washington state who’s helmed a number of recent seminars on the fascist danger, warns, “Right now, the fascists have a foothold on state power, but not full state power. They are trying to use their control of too much of our governmental apparatus to maintain and expand their hold”—including by sabotaging the election.

“A massive vote against Trump is essential to preventing fascism,” Brodine says. “Voting out Trump’s Republican co-conspirators, including Mitch McConnell, flipping the Senate, sending more Democrats and more progressives to the House, and flipping more state legislatures are all pieces of the struggle.”

Summarizing the party’s election work, Cambron cut to the chase: “We must all speak loudly and say, ‘Not in this country you don’t!’” Voting out Trump is step one, she says, the next is to stay organized and “show our force after Nov. 3rd as well.”

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C.J. Atkins
C.J. Atkins

C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People's World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left.