It’s been said that Communists make the best fighters for social progress because they have the big picture of the struggle, the long view of the road towards a better society, and feel strongly about justice.

Probably the most unjustly vilified political movement of the 20th — and 21st — centuries, U.S. Communists are still fighting the good fight. Evidence comes from little-publicized events in the last two weeks: the Communist Party held three regional conferences — in Oakland, Calif., Chicago and New York — focused on building at the grass roots.

Where is anti-communism today? What holds people back from joining the Communist Party or Young Communist League? Why does a bigger CPUSA matter? The conferences took up these and many other questions.

Some of the biggest gains for workers of all races and unions, for African Americans and other people of color, for immigrants, for women and young people, were made when there was a sizeable and influential Communist Party. During its height in the 1930s and ’40s, Communists helped win far-reaching advances, like unions and Social Security, that — although under attack now — are still seen as centerpieces of our nation’s social safety net.

During the 1960s and ’70s, the party was infused with a new generation of anti-Vietnam-War and civil rights activists. As with the New Deal, there’s a correlation between landmark measures like the Great Society’s Medicare and the Civil Rights Act, the mass upsurge that won those advances, and the growth of the Communist Party.

When anti-communism rages, setbacks to democracy are sure to come. The prime example is the McCarthy/Cold War period. But recall that Ronald Reagan promoted aggressive anti-communism — calling the Soviet Union the “evil empire” and illegally funding anti-communist Contras to overthrow Nicaragua’s Sandinista government — and at the same time launched 27 years of ultra-right attacks on unions, civil rights, public services and democracy.

The Communist Party conferences showed that a big-picture people’s movement in our country is alive, relevant and necessary. That’s good news for the struggles of today and tomorrow.

You can learn more about (and join) the Communist Party at and the Young Communist League at .