Combatting anti-communism in the labor movement

BY:Lowell B. Denny, III| June 4, 2019

I’ve often had occasion to quote something Prof. Gerald Horne said on a recent trip here to Hawaii for LaborFest Hawaii on the labor movement:

We need to recognize that it’s not only us in the United States who face a rising tide of right-wing populism that’s very dangerous, but also in France … though the left prevailed in recent Swedish elections, the ultra-right did tremendously well … Right-wing nationalists in Japan … Modi in India …

Labor and the Left needs an explanation for this global trend of a rightward shift in order to understand these local manifestations. When this analysis is done, I daresay one explanation will be that the decline of the socialist camp weakened the Left globally, contrary to what was thought at the time.

A scarecrow is a poor excuse for a human being, but if it is removed I daresay that one’s crops will be plundered by scavengers.

The socialist camp had admitted flaws and weaknesses but with its decline our crops have been devastated by our class antagonism. Labor and the Left need to realize that one lesson of the passed few decades is that progressivism will find it difficult to survive unless radicalism is strong, and if radicalism is weak then progressivism is weak.

The truth is, this history is not history at all but something that ripples right now not only in establishment political circles between the two capitalist parties but also within the labor movement.
As some might know – since I gave the blow by blow of events during the recent government shutdown – I discovered that my union, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) has a clause in its Constitution that prohibits membership in the Communist Party USA. I discovered this clause only after I had been mysteriously removed as a shop steward.
Clause 23, section 2[b] reads as follows as an offense: “Working in the interest of or becoming a member of the Communist Party or any other organization which advocates the overthrow of the democratic form of government under which our members live. The conflict resolution program is not available. Penalty for conviction under this subsection shall be expulsion.”
When I reached out to the regional vice president, George McCubbin, he replied by email: “With regards to Article 23 there is nothing illegal about it. It’s our internal process for individuals or groups who violate our constitution.  It’s an administrative process.”
Then I reached out to AFGE HQ, and my inquiry was directed to the AFGE general counsel.
Even though this Clause, and this AFGE Constitution, was ratified in Orlando, FL’s convention in 2015, the general counsel suggested “there is a genuine question as to the legality of imposing discipline against an officer based solely on his/her membership in an political party … ” This is what many comrades advised me too.
And yet the clause is there.
What other labor unions retain this prohibition in 2019? This should be an obvious priority not only for the Communist Party USA but also the media of the Communist Party USA. The labor writers and editor should be quizzing these labor leaders about this when they’re being interviewed.
The Party should have a published list of those unions that have removed such antiquated clauses – like my old teacher’s union, United Educators of San Francisco – on the CPUSA.ORG site, alongside those unions that still maintain this anti-communist, anti-labor posture, which I argue is a cancer to the labor struggle we are so invested in fighting for. By the way, I am informed that AFL-CIO, with whom AFGE is affiliated, despite its anti-communist beginnings in 1955 under George Meany, removed this clause in the 1980’s.


    Lowell B. Denny, III, has a degree in political science from Washington University. His political education began with his membership in Queer Nation-San Francisco, spending two months of work and study in Cuba in the early 1990s, then three months hitchhiking around Mexico where he got to spend a day in jail, and now living in Hawaii where the sovereignty movement is strong. He has worked in publishing, retail, as a school teacher and restaurant waiter. He is a member of AFGE Local 1234.

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