African American Equality Commission Meeting Keynote

September 19, 2007

June 9th-10th 2007
St. Louis

Comrades, Sisters and Brothers,


Let me start by thanking comrade Sam Webb for proposing this meeting and the National Board for endorsing the idea of this conference which started out as an expanded meeting of the commission but because of the overwhelming response grew into much more.

The last time we held a similar meeting was in the early 90s before our 25th convention. We must do this more often.

It is appropriate that we come to St. Louis a city with a large African American working class; a working class that has contributed much to the struggle going back to the fight against slavery and the development of the trade union movement.

I remember in 2000 when the theft of the presidency was being carried out by those racist conspirators in the White House. The TV reporters interrupted the vote count to announce that there was an injunction being filed in the courts in St. Louis to extend the hours of voting because the election officials where trying to close the polls down while thousands of mainly black voters were still waiting on line to vote.

That action was carried out mainly by black trade unionist who were in the fore front of what was a magnificent voter registration and mobilization drive aimed at defeating the Right danger. At that moment I was so proud because I knew our comrades were playing a role in this militant action and they were. We are standing on hallowed ground for us communists because this town has produced some of the finest black trade unionist elected officials in the country.


As we gather here this morning my heart is saddened because we recently lost a fine comrade who was leading part of the party leadership here in Missouri in recent times. Im talking about comrade John Pappadimus. We pay tribute to him this morning.

And I want to also tell you about an early communist who was a general in the Civil War. General Wyndemeyer was one of the early Marxist who migrated here from Germany and was a communist General in the Union Army and a staunch fighter against slavery. His base was here in St. Louis.

But I especially want to pay tribute to two communist leaders one black and one white who really established the class and multi racial foundation of the party in Missouri. Im talking about Hershal Walker and Red Davis. They were two heroic figures who were responsible for bringing this party through the most difficult times and keeping it on the working class path. We salute them this morning. They would all be very excited about this meeting taking place this weekend because they understood the strategic/central role played by the African American peoples movement for freedom.

The point I want to make this morning is that we communist are no Johnnys-come-lately to the fight for African American equality. Going back to one of Marxs most famous quotes made during the anti slavery period that, Labor in the white skin cannot can never be free as long as labor in the black skin was branded to our partys founding where our founders rejected the notion that the fight for black freedom was not critical to the fight for socialism. To the founding of the modern civil rights movement. The great William L. Patterson headed the CRC (Mr. Civil rights) Scottboro, Angelo Herdon the founding of the CIO on up to today.The struggle for African American equality and against racism has been in the political DNA of the Communist Party USA. We are talking about 160 years of struggle by communists to bring an end to racial and national oppression. This is the party of WEB Dubois and where Paul Robeson found his socialist consciousness. So we are here to continue the struggle that is deeply rooted in our history; in the very essence as a party. That must be our starting point today.

The Purpose

The purpose of this meeting is to begin a process that will lead to a higher level of our work among African American people. We have to better organize our work in this vital area. We have to raise the level of ideological understanding of the question and better carry out our practical work in the field of African American equality. We need to develop tactics that put us in closer working relationship with the broader mass organization in the black community. Our goal must be to greatly expand our influence and our membership among African Americans. We must build our party deep in the grass roots and rank and file of labor. This will be to the benefit of the entire movement for peace, jobs, equality and socialism.

Last Election a Turning point

Last November history was made. Sam Webb in his report to the recently concluded National Committee Meeting of the our party pointed out, The November 7, 2006 election was a peoples victory. It was a stunning blow to the Bush Administration and the Republican Party, thus creating a far more favorable political terrain in the Congress and the country.

That vote has put the right wing on the defensive on the war and on all democratic questions including the fight against racism. There is a more favorable political terrain and the objective conditions for a broad peoples upsurge are there.

Ending the war is now the number one issue. Bush poll numbers are around 27%. That means that many Republicans are against him.

The Republicans are expected to lose the white house and more in the Congress in 2008. That of course requires a strong united fight against them. But even they are saying they cant win. Newt Gingrich says, President Bush has presided over a Republican Party in collapse. The Republican candidates are all chasing the votes of the extreme right and this is not what the great bulk of voters want to here.

The two leading candidates for president are a Black and a woman. This years crop of presidential candidates are much more to the left then in 2000 and 2004. Compare this crop with the old Gore and Kerry and there is a big shift. There is tremendous ongoing struggle to push for an end to the war by the people

The debates show that the Republicans are way out of touch with the voters. They continue to push policies that have been discredited especially the war. They are still desperately trying to hold on to an ever narrowing reactionary base.

They however remain a substantial force in the Congress, wherever they hold the reigns of government and of course because they have enormous corporate financial backing and they still dominate much of the media. They are still a great danger and that is why they will not just fade away for lack of support. They have been weakened but they must be thoroughly and decisively defeated in 2008. Our focus this weekend must also be on the coming election struggle which will be a tough fight.

Our Role

Over the decades our party has made a tremendous contribution but it has also made some mistakes. But speaking of the past role of our party Ossie Davis the life long political activist and star of stage and screen when asked why so many black intellectuals of the period of his youth were drawn to communism he said, Capitalism was beating the living crap out of us, segregating us, and killing us. Along comes a system that challenges capitalism, a system that says theres another way to organize the world. Naturally we listened. Ossie made an outstanding contribution to the progressive and working class movement for most of his life.

We called this conference because we have serious weaknesses today that we must correct. We need many more organized clubs in the black community and we need to recruit many more black workers especially in our ranks especially black organized workers. We need more black intellectuals and activist as well.

We have around us some wonderful African American allies who we have not been able to bring into the party. We must find the ways to build real active and well connected clubs in the black neighborhoods. We must become a party that has real political muscle in the grass roots.

The Conference

This weekend we will hold discussions (it already started last night) on what are the conditions our people face. Art Perlo from our economics commission has prepared an excellent memo that everyone should read. But we will have panelists who will speak on the health care crisis we face, the crisis of our youth and what black workers in industry are facing today. We are hoping that we will hear more on the situation in Africa. Joe Sims was going to present something but he could not make it. We do have comrade Sallum who I hope will speak to us for 10 minutes or so today. That will be the panel on the state of black America. We heard some of that last night also.

We will have a second panel on the fight back where we hope to hear what is going on in the CBTU. What happened in the recent aldermanic election in Chicago where the trade union movement helped to elect a number of progressive black trade unionist to public office.

We have a third panel on building the party. This panel will discuss what our experiences have been. How the PWW can be an effective party building tool. We will see other approaches like here in St. Louis with the CBTU and in NY trying to build in Harlem and among transit workers. We would like to hear discussion from the floor following the initial panel presentation.

We have this concept of triple concentration which comrade Henry Winston the now deceased national Chairman of our party who was the main creator of the concept. In that report he calls for a concentrated effort to build the party in the key black and brown communities across the country. He considered the labor movement the starting point for building in the black community. And that our work in the concentration communities be actively supported by the club in the area, the district organization and the national party as well. So for example if we wanted to distribute 10,000 copies of the PWW once a month in Harlem or South Side. We could call on comrades from all over the district and nearby district to help us do that on that day.

I think Sam is going to talk to us about that. But if we get a report on the CBTU and whats happening in this district, you will see that the trade union work industrial concentration idea has been implemented to some degree here and where it has, it can bring results.

Building the party among African Americans is not the black comrades job only. It is the task of the whole party. Because your district only has even one African American comrade or even none you can still build. No, we cant recruit because we dont have any black comrades. I think that is an excellent reason to recruit.

We will have a presentation on the over all party building plans. And we will have some action proposals as a follow up to this conference. We are not going to be able to answer every question thoroughly but we hope we will gain new and better insights on how to build our party today.

During the day there will be time for lots of discussing from the floor although we are asking people to try to speak on more then 3 minutes so that other will have a chance. And it is a good rule to allow those who have not spoken to speak before we have many second rounds.

We will have a social tonight hopefully with music and maybe some dancing.

We will adjourn at 1 pm tomorrow in time to make your plaines. Time is of the essence.

We must Build Our Party

When we leave St Louis we want to leave here with a conscious attitude that we must and can build our party among African Americans. We can be better connected to the broad movement of African Americas. We have had some experience with the Black Radical Congress we are beginning an assessment in my club to see what lessons need to be drawn.

The fight against racist influences in our ranks is part of party building as well and frankly we have fallen back on this. I think it would be good to start a comradely but honest discussion on this.

We cannot be successful in this effort if we do not adopt a conscious struggle to eliminate the influences of white chauvinism in our ranks. Racism can come in many forms it not just the overt insensitivity or insult. Comrades who are arrogant usually tend to make chauvinistic mistakes. Comrades who are paternalistic towards people of color will not build real trust and confidence. It will slow down the process of solidification. These days we rarely talk about white chauvinism in our ranks. That is a real weakness because it is there.

Nationalism ( and I am not talking about national consciousness) which is often a response to racism is destructive to the party. We shouldnt blame all white people for the racism of the white ruling class. This is not class consciousnessThis is not Marxism.

Lenin addressed this question of chauvinism in his discussion of the nationalities question. He wrote, Nothing holds up the development and strengthening of the proletarian class solidarity so much as national injustice; offended nationals are not sensitive to anything so much as to the feeling of equality and the violation of hat equality by their proletarian comradesThat is why the fundamental interest of the proletarian solidarity and consequently of the proletarian class struggle requires that we never adopt a formal attitude to the national question.

I think it may be one of the things that we lost in reaction to the struggle in 1991. We need to seriously look at that.

We must reestablish annual black history month celebrations. Some districts are excellent on this but most are not. This must change.

Finally, we have to be confident that we can build our party among African American actually it is starting to happen on a new level. There is a high level of radicalization among African Americans. If they have the opportunity to get to know our party and our science many will join. If they read our press and get a chance to see our work and our commitment to the struggle and building unity, many will join.

Martin Luther King in his historic speech honoring W.E. B. DuBois (1968) on whose shoulders he stood. Said, People deprived of their freedom do not give up—Negroes have been fighting for more than a hundred years and even if the date of full emancipation is uncertain, what is explicitly certain is that the struggle for it will endure.

The struggle will endure and so will our party. Lets have a successful conference comrades.


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