Ultra-right has not been decisively defeated

The Communist Party’s strategic direction, as outlined in its main discussion document for its upcoming convention, is correct. Our thinking on the need to defeat the ultra-right, going back 30 years now, has been correct.

I agree with those who feel we may have over-estimated the impact of the 2008 election victory on the ultra-right. It suffered a setback but it remains extremely powerful. We argued that it must be decisively defeated in order for real change to happen. That defeat has proven tenuous at best.

We’ve seen something quite different happen. The extremists have re-fashioned themselves as leaders of the “tea bagger” movement – corporate-financed and racist and hateful in their rhetoric – to push back against the big momentum we helped build for passage of health reform.

But the extremists have the loudest voices on the right and in our media and in the heads of most Americans. See here for some examples.





Let’s remember that these powerful voices are the echoes of the slaveholding plantation owners and McCarthyites of a bygone era, but they wield an influence over the thought patterns of Americans and politicians that we have yet to fully understand.

And the corporate media just loves them, loves them, loves them. The media helped this right-wing movement craft a loud message against health reform that set the stage for the more tenuous Democrats of the Senate to move away from our victory on this issue.

This fact doesn’t mean our strategy was wrong. It means that we need to have a more sober assessment of what happened in November 2008 and the exact power of the labor-led people’s movement since then, as well as a clearer understanding of the nature of the legislative process.

Certain ideological institutions and state apparatuses are designed to preserve conservative tendencies and capitalist power. Two important ones are the Senate and the corporate media. The Senate was made to keep people’s legislative demands under firm control. This fact was not a big enough part of our considerations recently. Understanding and working to change how the Senate operates might be a key point of struggle. Consider also that about six major multinational corporations own something like 90 percent of the media in our country. Who can out-shout that?

The Supreme Court’s recent decision to hand elections to corporations is no help. And the fact that Republicans are finding new sources of campaign cash from Wall Street, in order to block Obama’s plans to wring some measure of repayment out of the bankers who caused the economic collapse, will prove a big obstacle.

We need a bigger voice to counter the sheer power of those trends. That means the biggest and broadest movement possible – something like the electoral coalition that put Obama into office – in motion to win a more progressive agenda than the Obama administration has already put into place.

We will not win or even be a part of such a movement by focusing mainly or only on “left criticism” of the center force through which any progressive agenda will have to pass. Some in our ranks argue that “left criticism” is the only way to go right now.

We have to set aside this bad idea in a decisive way at this convention.

We cannot mistakenly convince ourselves that the broad movement needed to thoroughly defeat the right and win progressive change resides somewhere close to us on the left. It did not during the election and does not now. We number thousands in a country of hundreds of millions. Our specific role has to be to build that movement of tens of millions by providing clear thinking on strategy and tactics to overcome the biggest obstacles to winning a better agenda.

I think the main convention discussion document quite rightly points to the struggle for jobs and economic recovery for Main Street first (based on new ways of economic and political governance) as the first big movement that can help the Obama coalition accomplish what still needs to happen.

People who call themselves communists have to put this fight first and foremost, above the discontent and easy words aimed at failure, above the urge to push back with the criticism of the marginalized. What-we-should-have-dones and other Monday morning quarterbacking have to be set aside. The broadest possible movement alliances should not be sacrificed for argumentation or clinging to old, even failed, ideas, such as insisting that we name our theories after dead European guys, as if that is some measure of our revolutionaryism. Those are just words.

The real measure of our small movement is how big of a people’s movement we can help put into motion to make real change.

The convention is a time for renewal, a time for shedding an old skin. It is a time for honest people to fine tune our best ideas and send the bad ideas and wrong ways of doing things to the scrap heap. It is a time to mobilize ourselves for what might be one of the most decisive fights in our country’s history against the right wing and the corporate and militaristic forces gathered around it. Nothing else can help our movement, our class, our country or the world.

This article is part of the discussion leading up to the Communist Party USA’s 29th National Convention  May 21-23, 2010. The People’s World takes no responsibility for the opinions expressed in this article or other articles in the pre-convention discussion. All contributions must meet the guidelines for discussion. To read other contributions to this discussion, visit the site of the Pre-Convention Discussion period.

All contributions to the discussion should be sent to discussion2010@cpusa.org for selection, not to this publication.

For more information on the convention or the pre-convention discussion period, you can e-mail convention2010@cpusa.org.

Photo: commons.wikimedia.org 



Joel Wendland-Liu
Joel Wendland-Liu

Joel Wendland-Liu is the author of Mythologies: A Political Economy of U.S. Literature, Settler Colonialism, and Racial Capitalism in the Long Nineteenth Century (International Publishers) and The Collectivity of Life (Lexington Books).