The communist imperative for a socialist Appalachia

BY: Ensel Thone| May 7, 2024
The communist imperative for a socialist Appalachia


This piece is a contribution to the Pre-Convention Discussion for our 32nd National Convention. During Pre-Convention Discussion, all aspects of the party’s program, strategy, and tactics are up for consideration and debate. The ideas presented here are those of the author or authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Communist Party USA, its membership, or their elected leadership bodies. — Editors

Appalachia in the year 2024 has been left bruised and battered, a history of genocide, subjugation, failed liberation, extreme counterrevolution, and severe exploitation having left the people of this region in a long spiral of decay. In the remote towns throughout Appalachia, including the author’s home of Southwest Virginia, there are places beyond decay, ghost towns that rival those of the Old West. Appalachians are surrounded by the ruins of the so-called Gilded Age, created on the broken backs of Appalachian quasi-slaves; the fire of American industry fed by Appalachian coal. Opioids, the great evil of our time, have been inflicted on the poor and listless populations throughout Appalachia by pharmaceutical giants, many of whom have grown as rich as the coal barons of old upon the piles of innocent working class corpses and shattered families. The water, poisoned in many places by the immiserating march of extractive processes over the course of 150 years, is as toxic as the backwards reactionary culture that permeates many aspects of life in Appalachia. The weight of history hangs like an albatross ‘round the necks of Appalachians.

The only way for Appalachians to break these long-forged chains is through socialism. The vast swaths of land held by mega-corporations must be redistributed for the common good. The historical and ongoing crimes against oppressed minorities must be reckoned with via the Right of Return for Indigenous Americans, as well as a New Reconstruction to provide restitution and reconciliation to Black Americans. The right-wing think tanks and capitalist entities peddling hateful pseudo-culture on TV and through the internet must be annihilated, and the unique, inclusive, intersectional, and proletarian Appalachian culture, steeped in communal and Socialist values, must be embraced. The liberatory history of Appalachia, often overlooked or censored entirely, must be taught and distributed widely. Education in general must become a priority, with drives to increase literacy.

As population decline continues across the region, fueled by white flight, brain drain, and the diaspora of working class people seeking work elsewhere, the future of Appalachia rests in the hands of the growing working class Black, Latino/a, and Indigenous communities. With them, Appalachian culture will once again evolve, and, it is hoped, breathe new life into the region. Without a true united front of all workers in Appalachia, of every race, religion, and orientation, a true challenge to imperial domination in the hills and hollers cannot occur, and the ancient mountains will be left to squander for another generation.

These are arduous tasks. They require the work of millions, a vast expansion of democracy and political activity for the whole working class, and a strong Communist Party USA (CPUSA) made up of the most advanced and oppressed working class Appalachians, steeped in the theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism. The only political party capable of these monumental tasks is the Communist Party U.S.A.

Appalachian communists must ally with grassroots progressive organizations that are already staffed and neck-deep in the work, such as those working to defeat the Mountain Valley Pipeline; organizations of teachers, students, and parents resisting the fascistic policies of right-wing state governments and school boards; labor unions and organizations fighting against ubiquitous right-to-work laws throughout the south; Stop Cop City and other organizations set up to fight the expansion of the Gestapo-esque police state; collectives of volunteers who work to clean up the waterways and critical ecosystems of Appalachia; organizations agitating for state and federal governments to recognize the existential threat of climate change; organizations fighting for the rights and inclusion of our immigrant neighbors and fellow workers regardless of documentation status; and countless others. Building a socialist Appalachia is not only possible, it is wholly necessary for a mass-oriented successful socialist movement within the borders of the United States.

This is a call to action for all Appalachian communists, and to the broader progressive movement in Appalachia: join the Communist Party USA, and help establish clubs in places where radical history and extreme political repression go hand-in-hand. CPUSA clubs must also join hands across Appalachia to work towards the shared goals of progress and liberation, and guide the CPUSA to develop a unique approach for Appalachia. We must work together in the struggle across the region and fight for a socialist Appalachia, where democracy and prosperity are shared in kind by a healthy people and a healthy environment.


    Ensel Thone is Chair of the Virginia District CPUSA and of the Star City Workers Club, VA.  

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