Turning point in freedom road
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This keynote, presented to the CPUSA National Committee on Jan. 23, 2021, has been updated with the input of NC members.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of last Wednesday’s Inauguration. Trump’s gone, the coup was averted, and democracy prevailed. The fascist danger experienced a setback — at least for now.

For those who believed it could never happen here, think again. It almost did. America’s love affair with exceptionalism could not escape a tendency deeply embedded in capitalism’s laws of motion. While not inevitable, fascism remains a threat.

Indeed, if anyone had any doubts about what Trump represented — and there were many — let them remember January 6th. Let them reflect on the sacking of the Capitol.  Let them recall the day the so-called defenders of blue beat down officers in blue, with flag poles draped in red, white, and blue.

Remind them, please, of the day they tried to plant the Confederate flag atop the U.S. Capitol.

But the Jim Crow South failed to rise again. The U.S. is not that country anymore. We’re able to stand here today because the coup did not have sufficient support and collapsed under its own weight.

What did enjoy popular support was an emerging multi-racial America:  It was the combined weight of democracy and the resistance, the widespread opposition to Trump among our working class and people which prevailed that day.

This widespread rejection of Trump’s presidency started the day after he was elected, as thousands marched up New York City’s 6th Avenue and around the country shouting, “Not my president!”

And it continued in the following days and weeks, exploding in a massive millions-strong show of force in the Women’s Marches that greeted Trump’s swearing in ceremony.

The fightback gathered speed with the airport protests against the Muslim ban. These were followed by the movement of high school students protesting gun violence after the Parkland massacre.

These processes accelerated as tens of thousands showed up in support of the Warren and Sanders campaigns, which themselves became mass movements, the latter of which crystallized in what we’ve come to call “the socialist moment.”

And then things took off with Black Lives Matter protests after the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd – the largest, broadest, and most sustained anti-racist protests in our country’s history.

There’s been no stopping it since, as masses marched from the streets to the early voting ballot boxes, resulting in an 81-million strong Election Day vote for democracy.

Those 81 million votes scared the hell out of Trump. In response, he declared from the White House on November 5 that  Detroit,  Philadelphia,  Atlanta,  Phoenix, and Tucson stole the election. In other words, Trump accused allegedly corrupt, criminal black folk and brown folk of robbing white people of their election victory.  Can you imagine?  This was a charge that came straight out of the betrayal of Reconstruction and the rise of the KKK! It was the most dangerous speech ever made by a sitting president.

Trump’s actions that fateful day set the stage for everything that has happened since: the lawsuits, the recounts, the mass mobilizations to turn out the vote in Georgia.

Georgia changed everything. The country owes a huge debt of gratitude to Stacey Abrams and the good people of Georgia. With that election, the balance of power in the Senate shifted, and overnight the seemingly politically impossible was transformed into potential for positive change.

  • It made the complete defeat of the Trump forces possible;
  • It made the fight to defeat Covid achievable;
  • It made economic recovery from unemployment and evictions winnable.

And it made it possible for Rossana Cambron and I to stand up here before the National Committee this afternoon and declare that we are at a turning point – the country is at the beginning of a new political moment.

But declarations aren’t enough. The turning point won’t happen by itself — it has to be fought for and won. Indeed, if experience teaches us anything, it’s that the GOP is going to fight tooth-and-nail to turn things back in their direction. And they’re going to do so by blocking everything in sight.

That’s what they did to President Obama, and that’s what they’re going to try to do to Biden and Harris. In fact, they’re already doing it. They’ve already succeeded in delaying Trump’s trial. On the recovery package, the Republicans are already crying broke.

Look: the only thing they understand and respect in D.C. is money, power, and pressure. Now, our working class and people don’t have much money, but they do know a little about pressure, and that gives them the potential to exercise a whole lot of power.

So during the first 100 days, we’ve got to keep the pressure on: that means fighting for the PRO Act,  an extension of unemployment benefits, the $400 supplement, and an infrastructure bill.

The Biden White House has said the administration will be the most pro-labor since the New Deal. Good! Let’s hold them to it — there’s an opportunity here.  In this regard, our veteran trade unionists have said — and we want the NC to hear us — the doors are wide open today if we would only grab hold of the handles and walk through them. The doors are wide open to organize the unorganized, to build a movement of the unemployed, to pass a new Civil Rights Act, and radically reform the criminal justice system.

This is not due to anyone in the White House’s good intentions — we really don’t know what’s inside their heads —   it’s because a powerful people’s movement has put forward a platform and made demands that have swept the GOP from office. Let’s remember what happened in Georgia; they didn’t win thereby equivocating, backsliding, and vacillating – they won by demanding justice, jobs, health care, and the $2,000 supplement.

And if you do that in Georgia, you can do it anywhere!

Already the Biden-Harris White House is implementing a number of Executive Orders that break sharply with the Trump policy on immigration, global warming,  Covid, and economic recovery. They’ve increased funding for food stamps and raised the minimum wage to $15 on federal contracts.

After requesting the resignations of the top right-wing attorneys at the National Labor Relations Board and having been refused, the Biden administration fired them. Good! Now the White House plans to reconfigure the NLRB. Fantastic! Let’s build on it.

The position of the National Committee of the CPUSA with respect to the new administration should be crystal clear: We judge things issue by issue.

The CPUSA fights for and celebrates those measures that benefit workers and the people.  We oppose those that do not.

Decisions are going to be made that we’re not going to like; after all, this is capitalism, and we will not hesitate to take issue with bad decisions when necessary.

For example, the new administration has said they want to reset relations with Cuba. Support! On the other hand, the new secretary of state says they will recognize Guaidó in Venezuela. Of course, we strongly oppose it!

The Party stands for democracy not only at home but also abroad.  We cannot abide a progressive policy domestically and an imperialist one abroad.

In this period the Party has to master the art of continuing to focus on fighting the right-wing danger while keeping our eyes on the prize of responding to working-class and people’s needs. That’s not always going to be easy. It’s going to require struggle, patience, and perseverance.  It’s also going to require unity between the left and the center. We’re not always going to get what we want. The big question is how to prevent, while fighting for this unity, the right-wing from peeling off support and splitting democracy’s ranks.

The threat posed by the Trump forces is not going to go away. With the support of 73 million voters, a majority of Republicans in the House and Senate, and a massive war chest, they remain a powerful force that has to be defeated.  The question is how?

In this regard, shouldn’t initiatives for the first 100 days include anti-fascist planks and measures?  If so, what would that look like?

Well, first off, the coup plotters have to be exposed and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Start with Trump and his enablers both in Congress and in corporate boardrooms — all of those who supported the coup. Rep. Cori Bush has introduced legislation to do so. Let’s support it.

But don’t stop there: what about a special all-peoples commission to look into what happened on January 6th: how it was funded, organized, and executed?

It’s pretty clear something strange happened with the Capitol’s security.  Why was it so sparse? The country needs to know just how that happened. How far did the fascist elements penetrate federal security?

Clearly, the problem isn’t just in D.C. It’s countrywide — even international. These forces need to be uncovered and dismantled, including in police departments, National Guard units, state police, the whole nine yards. Defund and dismantle them.

But even that’s only scratching the surface. The country is experiencing a profound crisis of governance and belief. It’s more than just divided: the social contract is becoming unraveled. Wide sections of the working-class public have lost confidence in government, the mass media, and religious institutions.

And consider this: a big part of Trump’s support comes from those who fear losing what they perceive to be their place in the sun. It’s true that Trump exploited these feelings,  but he didn’t create them.  And it’s not just from the right.

What is to be done?

The answer is that there’s no other solution but long, hard, persistent educational,  ideological, and political work. This includes radical reforms, not only of the economy but also of the government.

And it means that, while addressing these economic and social problems, we must stand up and expose racism, sexism, and homophobia. It means addressing anti-communism. Let’s never forget that red-baiting was a staple of the GOP campaign.

It can be done. It has been done. An anti-racist majority still exists in this country.  Yes, there’s the 73 million who voted for Trump, but there’s also the 81 million who voted against him. We believe there are many millions more who can be won to non-racist or anti-racist positions, including among the Trumpsters.

  • In this regard, we have a big role to play. How? First by saying we’re not giving up on any section of our class. That’s the first thing.
  • Second, by telling it like it is. We’re not going to equivocate or mince words. If we see fascism, we’re going to call it. We pointed to this danger from jump street and we’re going to keep on doing it. People have to understand what we’re up against.
  • Third, we’re going to continue to fight for unity. We’re not giving up on that. We can’t.
  • Fourth, we’re going to keep fighting for working-class leadership. Why? Because only the working class mold the kind of unity necessary to win this fight.
  • And finally, we have to continue to build our party. And we are going to do so boldly.  We’re going to run candidates; we’re going to be out on the street, campuses, and workplaces for the 100 days and beyond. And you know what? We have every confidence that these efforts will lead to a larger, stronger, more vibrant party.

We know that because when the pandemic broke  and unemployment skyrocketed, we didn’t sit on the sidelines but got into the fight;

We know that because, at the height of the Covid pandemic when Breonna Taylor and George Floyd were murdered, we didn’t sit it out but followed our youth into the BLM  protests and held our banner high. We did it safely and with social distancing, but we did it.

We know that because when Trump was acting crazy and sending militias to liberate state capitols, we didn’t stand on the sidelines and despair, but joined the voter registration drives, the GOTV efforts, and the phone banks.

We marched,  petitioned, and provided mutual aid.  Some of us went to jail; one of us got shot. And we voted. Make no mistake, we helped the democratic forces win.

Some 2,000 new members have joined the CPUSA in the process. We’ve begun to set up new clubs, replenish the leadership in some of the old ones, and rebuild the YCL.

The PW’s circulation has tripled, we’ve got a new team at cpusa.org, and our social media presence is growing on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Yes, our work is uneven, and yes we have some problems, including financial ones due to the pandemic. And yes we’ve got a long way to go, but I’m more convinced than ever that we’re on the right road and that we’re going to get there.


CONTRIBUTOR

Joe Sims
Joe Sims

Joe Sims is co-chair of the Communist Party USA. He is also a senior editor of People's World and loves biking.    

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