Ocasio-Cortez deserves support and solidarity, not one-sided criticism from the left
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, democratic candidate for the 14th Congressional district of New York, speaks during a rally against Judge Brett Kavanaugh at City Hall, Monday, Oct. 1, in Boston. | Mary Schwalm / PW

In a recent article entitled “Why Socialists must back Democrats in November elections,” Rick Nagin called on socialists to work to elect Democrats. I’m sure he meant that Communists should also join in the fight. The main challenge before us is to defeat the enormous threat coming from the neo-fascist-like administration of provocateur Donald Trump and his Republican majority in the House and Senate.

I have never seen such a massive level of pre-election activism and broad multiracial determination to win as is unfolding in the country today. Justice Kavanaugh won confirmation in the Senate by two votes, with only one defection from Democrats. Kavanaugh is confirmed, but he has also given progressive democratic forces another big example of why the coming election must “VOTE THEM OUT!” as the students of the Parkland High School in Florida have called on the electorate to do.

It is widely understood among masses of people that to win this great battle we need a broad, politically diverse, multiracial coalition in states and cities, rural and suburban areas to get the job done. Nagin’s article made that point.

However, in that same article, the author wrongly criticized Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a socialist who recently won the Democratic primary for Congress in the 14th Congressional District, located in New York’s boroughs of Bronx and Queens.

A Democratic victory in November is a necessary part of what will be a people’s victory. The goal is to end the Republican domination of all three branches of the federal government. With unity and hard work, that can happen.

The historic victory of Ocasio-Cortez is an important part of the overall goal of defeating Trump. Beyond any doubt, her victory remains a high point of this epic struggle to save and advance our democracy.

However, rather than celebrating this victory, Nagin chose to unfairly charge Ocasio-Cortez with “class collaboration,” criticizing her views both with respect to the Israel-Palestine conflict and for expressing a mild praise for the late Republican Sen. John McCain. The critique, in my view, misrepresented Ocasio-Cortez’s views and also demonstrated a left sectarian indifference to her historic victory.

On its face, the election to the U.S. House of a 28-year old Puerto Rican woman who is a socialist and an activist is a huge breakthrough. Ocasio-Cortez won her Democratic primary by a substantial margin against Rep. Joe Crowley, a major figure in the Democratic Party in New York who also heads the Queens party and is part of the Democratic leadership of the U.S. House.

If all goes as it should, this outstanding Puerto Rican socialist leader will be elected in November. She was a strong supporter of Bernie Sanders and has been supporting progressive Democratic candidates all over the country. She has become a popular national media personality and is prominently featured in Michael Moore’s new film, Fahrenheit 11/9.

Nagin’s characterization of her views was unfair and insensitive. Among other things, he chose to inaccurately quote the candidate’s views on the Palestinian question. In a freewheeling interview on PBS Firing Line, a talk show founded by the late notorious ultra-snob William F. Buckley, Ocasio-Cortez referred to Palestine as a colony and said she was in favor of a two-state solution, a sensible and responsible response.

When challenged by the right-wing host of the show, Ocasio-Cortez retreated from some of her words and descriptions of the Palestinian question. This retreat was likely due more to inexperience under pressure rather than Ocasio-Cortez’s basic politics.

What Ocasio-Cortez ran into on PBS Firing Line is a problem that we Communists appearing on media are quite familiar with. Stuff happens even to the most capable and committed. Hopefully, lessons are learned and we move on.

It was wrong to characterize her as a “class collaborationist.” Her praise for the late Sen. McCain was related to him being among the few Republicans who had stood up to Trump.

In that same interview, Ocasio-Cortez made many courageous statements against capitalism and in defense of her socialist beliefs. She was very credible in her responses.

I have never met her, but those who have say she is a wonderful, principled, and courageous person. To elect an openly socialist member of Congress who is a proud Puerto Rican woman and who built her victory in a grassroots door-to-door way is huge.

Her district is a racially mixed working-class district. When she takes office, she will be the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Her victory is a victory for racial and gender equality. It is also a victory against the political marginalization and exclusion of open socialist, Communist, and other left candidates. This and other elections show those days are coming to an end. Most importantly, her victory is a huge defeat for Trump and Trumpism.

Ocasio-Cortez is not a class collaborationist, nor is she naïve for praising McCain.

The Communist Party has had very strong criticisms of John McCain over the decades, but he was on Trump’s enemies list, and in the last period of his life, the Arizona senator emerged as a very important anti-Trump Republican. His memorial was like an anti-Trump rally.

The reality is that Ocasio-Cortez’s election was a part of the basic fight for democracy and socialism. The New York District of the Communist Party is for unity with other constructive left forces. While it’s true that the CPUSA has some theoretical and strategic differences with the Democratic Socialists of America, they are part of the broad people’s front against the neo-fascist danger.

Ocasio-Cortez certainly doesn’t need one-sided criticism coming from the left. She needs support and solidarity.

The massive militant reaction to the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, especially from women, is part of the same wave—and it’s more than just blue—that elected Ocasio-Cortez and which will create a new majority in the House and Senate. This upsurge is fueled by fear, anger, determination—and a lot of hope. The country is not going back.

The country is in a critical transitional period. A new political alignment is taking place. It has been developing for many decades. That’s why Obama won twice, and Bernie Sanders received 13 million votes. That’s why Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. We all must adjust accordingly. The defeat of the Trump/neo-fascist/corporate/Republican danger is critical to moving forward.

A broad, united, multi-racial, independent, progressive party of labor and people is needed, and but that is still a bit down the road. The seeds are being planted and cultivated every day. It will take multiple forms and tactics to get there.

Finally, I know Rick Nagin’s history, and I am sure he is rethinking his mistaken characterization of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

That said, the first thing in the next weeks is to VOTE THEM OUT!


Jarvis Tyner
Jarvis Tyner

Jarvis Tyner is the former executive vice-chair of the Communist Party USA and a long-time member of the party's national board. Tyner has been an active public spokesperson against racism, imperialism, and war. He has written numerous articles and pamphlets and appeared on the media, campuses, and in other public venues advocating for peace, equality, and the socialist alternative.