Unity to save people and planet: Keynote to 31st convention CPUSA
Al Neal/PW

Editor’s note: Following are excerpts of the remarks made by John Bachtell, the outgoing chair of the Communitst Party USA at the party’s convention in Chicago last weekend.

Welcome delegates and guests! Welcome international guests! We are so happy and grateful you are with us. And welcome to the live-stream audience! Welcome to our 100th birthday party! We’re feeling a little rambunctious and just getting started!

Speaking of 100! This is also the 100th anniversary of the Winnipeg general strike! We remember and honor those workers who lost their lives.

And while we’re sending kudos to our northerly neighbors and comrade sister Liz Rawley, chair, Communist Party of Canada, congratulations to the Toronto Raptors for winning the NBA title!

The Raptors are a little like us communists – they work well together, are gritty, and take joy in the struggle.

We gather at a pivotal moment. The very existence of our people and our planet are in peril.

Humanity and all life forms face unprecedented, interrelated and unsustainable global challenges: climate and ecological emergencies, rampant militarization, an escalating war danger in the Middle East with Iran, including nuclear war, and a crisis of wealth extremes.

We face the instability and unpredictability of a crisis-ridden and predatory capitalist system, made more chaotic by the Trump trade wars and disruption brought on by the new phase of the scientific, technological, communications revolution, including robotics and artificial intelligence.

We face a lawless, lying, climate denying occupant of the White House, who has brought on a democratic and constitutional crisis and aligned himself with a global extreme right and wealth concentration that threatens democracy elsewhere.

These crises interconnect, converge, and compound one another. They must be addressed globally and simultaneously, on a scope and scale that meets the challenges.

Together, the solutions, the transition to a green and demilitarized economy, and funding this transition through radical wealth redistribution and reallocation of military spending, are a basis for international working-class solidarity, global cooperation, and unity of the overwhelming majority of people in our country.

They will also require the greatest mobilization of people and resources our country and planet has ever known.

The enormous changes witnessed in the past few decades pale in comparison to the changes, challenges, and upheaval now bearing down on us.

For many, this is a moment of despair.  A moment of fear and insecurity. A moment of scapegoating and division.

But this is also a turning point moment. A time of growing unity, of democratic and transformative upsurge, of global change, profoundly impacting politics and mass thinking.

Millions are turning to each other and rising to fight; marching, voting, and organizing to oust Trump and the extreme right-wing; determined to defend democratic rights and rescue our shared planet and future.

Millions are challenging the basic ideas and institutions of white supremacy, patriarchy, and the capitalist system itself.

Our multi-racial working class allied with the African American, Latinx, Asian American, Native American and other communities of color, women, youth, and organized labor, the LGBTQ and other social movements are finding hope in community and struggle!

We’re the ones, this broad democratic alliance, we’ve been waiting for. And we’re the ones who will lead the fight to expand democratic rights and save the planet. And we’re the ones who will bring into being a radically new kind of society free of exploitation, hate, and inequality.

Just a few weeks ago, Chicago’s first African American woman and first openly gay mayor took office. Lori Lightfoot’s landslide victory was made for this moment – a repudiation of the legacy of corrupt machine politics, racial division, police brutality, and corporate looting that is increasingly making this city unaffordable for working families.

And something else shook this city – the election of six socialists to the city council. Now that’s a demand for change!

People in Chicago and Illinois are not waiting to see what the newly elected officials enact. Grassroots movements are organizing to demand a people’s agenda.

People-powered victories here and elsewhere show the political ground is shifting; that organized labor and other people’s movements can elect our own and impact politics.

We are in the fight of our lives.

The threat posed by Trump, the GOP extreme right-wing, and their corporate backers is unlike anything we have seen.

Trump is an authoritarian, daily assaulting democracy and the truth, openly embracing racists, white supremacist, male supremacist, fascist groups, and domestic terrorists.

Anyone who turns a blind eye as immigrant children die in concentration camps at the border seeking haven from violence has no morality, no heart, and no soul.

Trump is a gangster masquerading as president. At the root of the collusion between Trump and Russia, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Israel, to influence the outcome of the 2016 election, the subsequent obstruction of justice and coverup is a vast network of money laundering, bribery, payoffs, and connections to global criminal syndicates.

Everyone knows Trump belongs in prison, and he will end up there. The best way to expose the corruption and lawlessness is to begin an impeachment inquiry. But that requires a shift in public opinion and unity of House Democrats. Convicting Trump of his crimes in the US Senate is even harder. None of it should divert us from total focus on the 2020 elections.

The Republican Party has become the cult of Trump. It’s not unthinkable a full-fledged fascist party could emerge with a mass base along with a propaganda and disinformation machine. Fascism never comes into existence full-blown but morphs in a step-by-step process and must be fought at every turn.

Fascist ideology spreads by dehumanizing whole groups of people like Trump’s vile racism, the criminalization of reproductive rights, Islam, the LGBTQ community, immigrants and asylum seekers, the terrorization of immigrant communities, and the attack on “globalists,” a veiled anti-Semitic reference.

Trump’s election sparked an explosion of disgust, protest, and resistance. It created massive and growing counter-movements against his misogyny, racism, hate, and division.

His inauguration was greeted by the most massive protest in US history, led by women. Since then the upsurge has expanded to many fronts, solidarity between movements has grown, and millions are being drawn into activity. We have fought him tooth and nail ever since.

And if Trump thinks he’s going to deport 1 million undocumented immigrants he can go to hell!

The 2018 elections recorded the highest voter turnout in a midterm election in 50 years, the most racially diverse ever. A record number of activists, women, people of color, trade unionists, LGBTQ activists, and socialists were elected.

And since then communists too – some victors and almost victors. Congratulations to Wasayah Whitebird who was elected president of the city council in Ashland, Wisconsin and Tony Pecinovsky, who nearly won alderman despite the vilest redbaiting campaign and gang up by St. Louis’s power structure.

Throughout our nation’s history, every time our multi-racial working class and people win social advances, reactionary corporate forces try to turn back the clock. And the rise of Trump can be understood in no small measure as a reaction to change, including the election of President Obama, and advances for people of color, women, labor, and the LGBTQ community.

Powerful capitalist and reactionary forces fear one thing above all else – the growing unity of organized labor, the nationally and racially oppressed, women, and youth, and social movements creating a powerful foe, capable of radically transforming society.

Consequently, the Koch brothers and other right-wing billionaires created the Tea Party movement and captured the GOP. Trump rode to fame on the racist “birther” lie against President Obama, attacking Mexican immigrants as rapists and murderers and turning back the clock to “Make America Great Again.”

Trump and the extreme right aimed their sights directly at this growing unity. Anti-immigrant hysteria, Islamophobia, racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, anti-communism, and anti-socialism and massively spreading lies and disinformation, is a desperate attempt to divide and hold power.

People’s economic insecurities and anxieties over social changes are manipulated by conjuring up dire threats from internal and external enemies.

Economic nationalism is aimed to exploit fears and insecurities and turn the US working class and people against the working class and people of other nations and whip up Trump’s base.

Class oppression, racism and white supremacy, and male supremacy have been fused throughout US history, most notably the legacy of slavery and inequality. Voter suppression, criminalization of reproductive rights, and union busting are aimed to divide and weaken the movement and roll back democratic gains for worker’s rights, racial and gender equity.

But Trump, the GOP and extreme-right, and their billionaire backers will fail because we persist!

The extreme right nationalist movements growing internationally will ultimately fail too. Economic globalization, which today is under capitalist domination, is an irreversible process. The world is becoming a smaller, more interconnected place. To meet the threats of extinction facing humanity and nature, and the crisis of wealth extremes requires greater international working class and human solidarity and global cooperation.

An essential feature of the Party’s work is our strategic policy – to identify the most important political goal at this moment that when achieved will advance the whole working class and democratic struggle, and then to help organize and unite every force possible to make it happen.

The extreme right and the most reactionary section of the capitalist class backing it are concentrated in and around the Republican Party. Defeating this monster is the most critical thing the working class, and people must do at this moment. It affects everything else, including the ability to win any social advances.

The fossil fuel corporations, military industrial complex, and sections of finance capital comprise the core support base of the extreme right and are the main obstacles to action on the climate crisis, peace and advancing a people’s agenda.

The most decisive battleground is the 2020 elections, and the entire democratic movement is gearing up. We have to be all in too.

The aim is to oust Trump and the Republican Senate majority, defend the Democratic House majority, and bust the GOP domination of governorships and state legislatures.

A majority opposes Trump and the GOP policies. But majorities don’t mean much if they are not mobilized at the grassroots, educated, and every voter registered, turned out, and counted on election day.

What will it take to win?

It will take maximum unity and full mobilization of our multi-racial, male-female, gay-straight, multi-generation, native and foreign-born, working class in alliance with all other democratic and core forces including communities of color, women, youth, immigrants, the differently abled, and every social movement.

It will take elevating the fight for full equality and the fight against racism and sexism, and all forms of discrimination.

It will take the unity of left and center political currents, of the electoral alliance working within and alongside the Democratic Party. This alliance is united by the urgency to defeat the extreme right while navigating class contradictions, and differences on issues. But left and center currents are also shifting and changing under the impact of movements and rapidly changing developments.

It will take advantage of what Lenin called “conflicts of interest” in the corporate ruling class and “the use of any, even the smallest, rift between the enemies, any conflict of interests among the bourgeoisie of the various countries and among the various groups or types of the bourgeoisie within the various countries.”

It’s necessary, wrote Lenin, “even though this ally is temporary, vacillating, unstable, unreliable and conditional” to advance the interests of the working class.

Our role in the 2020 elections is to assist the multi-racial working class led democratic upsurge impact the entire process and outcome, to help draw more people into the political process, to grow the unity, breadth, and grassroots depth, and expand the field of battle into so-called “red states and districts.”

The mass democratic social movements are not united behind a single Democratic candidate in the primaries. Therefore, our role is to help build unity on the issues and not around personalities. In many cases, there is broad consensus on the goals, for example, universal healthcare, a green transition and the Green New Deal, free university education, criminal justice reform, immigration reform, but differences on how to get there.

We will fight to defend the hard-fought democratic gains now being eroded by Trump, and the extreme right and, as circumstances and conditions permit, more advanced positions, working to build overwhelming support as the struggle intensifies. This includes among independent and Republican voters.

We will take every initiative possible to raise the level of class, and anti-racist, anti-sexist, and eco-consciousness.

We will help strengthen the political independence of the working class, the core forces, and democratic allies, and social movements, which includes supporting candidates from their ranks, including communists. Many of the democratic forces gathered in the Democratic Party today will form the basis for a working-class-led people’s party tomorrow.

This is not a short-term battle. It is not for summer soldiers. The extreme right and this reactionary corporate sector are ruthless and powerful. Defeating it will take multiple election cycles and action in the streets, and legislative chambers, and in the battle of ideas.

It will take a much bigger, much broader, more united, and more class, socially, and ecologically conscious movement.

A new governing coalition reflecting the broad, inclusive anti-extreme right movement will create new possibilities to advance a people’s agenda, even radical reforms, new space for organization and participation of the working class, every social movement, socialists, and communists. It’s all part of the revolutionary process.

But it’s not the end of the story.

Defeating the extreme right is only the first stage of a more protracted and expansive fight against the entire capitalist class.

The 2007 global financial crisis and the Great Recession decimated families and communities, exposing the greed, ugliness, and brutality of the capitalist system.

In the economic earthquake and political aftershocks that followed, some responded with cynicism and despair, and others turned to the extreme right.

But millions of others concluded capitalism would never work. They joined the Occupy movement and a search for radical alternatives, including socialism.

Millions more are convinced capitalism is destroying the planet and human society must radically reorganize itself to survive.

We live in a moment when millions are opening to socialist ideas. 43 percent of Americans believe “some form of socialism” would be a “good thing” for “the country as a whole.” 47 percent say they would vote for a socialist for president.

Ideas the Communist Party USA helped pioneer are now mainstream: Social Security, industrial unionism, equal rights, black-brown-white unite and fight, universal child care, and community control of the police, and “people before profits.”

At one time, we were one of only a few organizations promoting Marxism. Now Marxism is available to anyone with an internet connection and discussed, debated, and taught on most college campuses.

Anti-communism has also declined, especially among the young generations born after the Cold War.

But it’s still deeply embedded in the political DNA of the country and a powerful weapon of division by the ruling class.

The perception that communism equates totalitarianism is still prevalent and a pressure pushing the Party to the margins.

We are still perceived by many as illegal or tied to the Soviet Union and past models of socialism. Many of our members don’t feel comfortable being public. Some labor and community leaders and elected officials fear publicly associating with us.

Still, the times, people, and political atmosphere have dramatically changed. This is a new day. Since 2016, the Party has grown substantially, and the People’s World circulation has doubled. Many clubs hold public events with broad participation and are appreciated by our allies for their contributions.

The possibilities for growth are enormous. Building the Party and its presence in this democratic upsurge and moment when millions are opening to socialist ideas, must be a top priority.

Our multi-racial working-class and people, the mass democratic and social movements need a much larger Communist Party USA to help grow, unite, and expand their reach.

A much larger Communist Party USA is needed to help give clarity and strategic guidance in the face of the massive and frightening challenges of our time.

Growing the Party can’t be left to chance. That is why we are projecting steps to strengthen organization and finances, improve Marxist education and theoretical development, and grow among youth, while also involving young members in all aspects of the leadership.

It means taking the next step in growing our ability to communicate with millions through the People’s World and cpusa.org website, and mastering all forms of digital and social media.

It means developing our vision of modern Bill of Rights green socialism; whose essence is equality, democracy, humanism, and sustainability, a vision that resonates with people’s experiences in everyday life.

It means fighting for the truth, encouraging serious self-reflection, critical thought, flexibility in tactics, reality-based approaches, with no tolerance for dogma.

The Communist Party USA is unlike any other organization. We play an indispensable and unique role, which is why we are celebrating our 100th birthday.

We are a working-class party guided by Marxism, or if you prefer Marxism-Leninism, scientific socialism, or the ideas of Marx and Engels, developed by Lenin, and Dimitrov, Gramsci, Luxemburg, Mandela, Castro, Ho Chi Minh, and Lucy Parsons, Harry Hay, William Z Foster, Anna Rochester, Claudia Jones, Gus Hall, Henry Winston, George Meyers, Lorenzo Torres, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, WEB Dubois, and Angela Davis.

The Marxist methodology allows us to understand and gain insights into developments. We seek to creatively and collectively develop Marxism by embracing what is new in the class struggle and our experience, never fearing to examine any question, in all its sides, contradictions and complexities.

We embrace the experiences of the international working class and revolutionary movements, the lessons from past socialist projects, and from building socialism today.

We learn from the rich experiences of our working class and mass democratic movements, including from other non-Party Marxists.

We are a party utilizing a developed Marxist strategy and tactics, powerful tools aiding the working class and people to get from here to socialism.

We are a party of action, deeply immersed in day-to-day working-class struggles and democratic movements, assisting them in growing, but also taking initiatives when necessary to advance those struggles.

We are a party of unity builders; uncompromising foes of racism, sexism, homophobia, and all forms of bigotry.

We are about bringing people together, one to one, and community to community, finding common ground, and the intersection of concerns, issues, and movements.

We are a party of socialism, of full economic, social, and political equality and democracy.

We are a champion of our multi-racial working class, democratic allies and social movements and bringing this alliance into the leadership of the entire movement up to achieving power and through building socialism.

We are engaged in the battle of ideas in the age of mass disinformation; to assist the working class in developing class consciousness and a scientific world outlook.

We are a party of internationalism, whose goal is ending US imperialism and its global military presence, and replace it with solidarity, equality, and global cooperation.

We are a party of revolutionary working-class morality, humanism, equality, unity, cooperation, solidarity, compassion, and concern for the well-being of all.

All organizations and movements have to adapt to a rapidly changing world, new moods, and sensibilities, modern ways of communicating and popular culture.

And if we want to be here in another 100 years, that goes for us too. Gus Hall said it best. The Party has to “change so we can grow.”

Changing doesn’t mean eliminating what makes us unique. On the contrary, it means strengthening those unique characteristics by carrying them forward into today’s changing world.

We are proud of our history and accomplishments. We honor those who preserved and built the Party and then passed it to us to safeguard. We stand on their shoulders – hundreds of thousands of ordinary working people.

But we won’t rest on our laurels and be wed to the past. We treasure what they gave us, but we have to win our leadership in the struggles of today, each and every day.

Our organization is deeply rooted in the revolutionary democratic traditions of this nation. We are the product of our multi-racial working-class and people in the fight for a better life.

We embody every struggle for social progress, every hard-fought democratic gain, everything that affirms and deepens our humanity.

Our vision of socialism has evolved in light of new experience. It is rooted in the revolutionary struggles, traditions, values, culture, and dreams of our working class and people – full equality, democracy, and freedom. It is the fulfillment of the most farsighted thinkers and doers of the revolution of 1776, the second revolution that ended slavery, the 1930s upsurge, the Civil Rights revolution, and today’s democratic upsurge.

It envisions every means for the vast majority of people to participate in creating and governing the new society and giving democratic institutions working-class leadership and content.

The US path to socialism is one that embraces militant peaceful non-violence as a creed, means, and an end.

It is being shaped in the here and now – the battle to defeat the extreme right, at the ballot box, in the streets, and in the battle of ideas.

The core of today’s anti-extreme right alliance, our multi-racial working class, communities of color, women, and youth, and social movements are the core of the broad coalition for socialism now in gestation.

The rising era of modern socialism is shaped by humanity’s response to the crisis of wealth extremes, to save our planet, for a sustainable and demilitarized economy and society.

It is a collaborative project shaped by the overwhelming desire for a more secure, humane and joyful life and creative work ensuring the fullest development of each and all; the full flowering of our diverse and inclusive working class and people and our culture, a place where prisons are abolished, walls become bridges, weapons turn to plowshares, smokestacks are replaced by wind turbines, where our wounded Earth is healed, where capitalists go the way of kings and dinosaurs, and where the rights of nature take their place alongside those of humankind.

This is the future if we grasp it. The Communist Party USA too will rise to the challenge!

Si se puede! Yes, we can! Yes, we will!


CONTRIBUTOR

John Bachtell
John Bachtell

John Bachtell is in the Illinois Bureau of People's world. He served as national chair of the Communist Party USA from 2014 to 2019. Previously, he was Illinois organizer for the party, and is active in labor, peace, and justice struggles. He grew up in Ohio and currently lives in Chicago.      

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