The Most Important Battle of Our Lives

BY:Joe Sims| October 15, 2004

Report to International Conference of Communist & Workers Parties, Athens, Greece, 8 – 10, October, 2004 Communist Party USA

Presented by Pam Saffer and Joe Sims on behalf of the CPUSA.


As we meet here in Athens, the US is in the middle of a gigantic electoral contest. It is difficult to convey the fervor and intensity of this great fight. Some have compared it to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, others to the momentum behind the efforts to found the industrial unions in 30s, still others to the movement against the Vietnam war. But whatever the comparison, back home, it is seen as perhaps the greatest and most important battle of our lives.

The understanding of this simple truth has awakened millions and drawn them into political life. From New York to Los Angeles, from Seattle to Miami, a march to the ballot box on election day is underway. This is a march already four years old. It began with George Bush’s theft of the election in Florida in 2000. Even as the dust settled from the terrorist attack of September 11th it continued. It grew larger with the protests against the illegal war in Afghanistan. This march became a mass all-peoples protest movement in the demonstrations that occurred before and after the overthrow and occupation of Iraq, led by United for Peace and Justice.

There has been an almost a continuous stream of protest: around abortion rights, immigrant rights, the environment, racism, a two-state solution in the Middle East, an end to the embargo against Cuba to mention only a few. Millions have taken to the streets, in small towns as well as big cities. And while the issues vary, all have had a sharp anti-Bush, anti-ultra-right character. This was especially evident in the historic march of half-a-million against the Republican Convention in New York City, just a few weeks ago.

The demonstrations signify the deep misgivings and fear about the direction of the country. These fears are not unfounded. At issue is the victory of democracy or the triumph of extreme right reaction. The choices are crystal clear: pre-emptive war against the world, or peaceful cooperation among the family of nations within the framework of the United Nations. State-sponsored terror, individual acts of terrorism, the inevitable retaliation, or dialog and non-violent resolution of conflict. The long-term occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan or the withdrawal of US forces.

The American people are faced with two distinct choices: tax giveaways to the super-rich or overtime pay for workers; the corporate rape of the environment or the observance of international treaties and agreements; the suppression of dissent, police-state surveillance and intimidation of protest or a return to democratic norms, a healthcare program for the 80 million without insurance or the privatization of public pensions and other services, the widespread use of torture and other forms of barbarism, or a return to the arms of civilization.

It was almost a truism in our movement that imperialism in 20th century meant reaction all down the line. This is certainly no less true in the 21st century in the era dominated by the US imperialist transnationals. The fight against such reaction as expressed in the policies of the US ruling class through the Bush administration therefore must be at the center of the battle against imperialism. There is a growing awareness in our country of what is at stake. Despite the fog of fear woven by the relentless right-wing propaganda machine the American people are inching steadily towards a democratic outcome. Although the contest is still undecided, such a victory remains possible.

The idea of a Democratic victory may come as a surprise to you. Public opinion both at home and abroad has been molded to believe the election is all but decided. Some have already lost faith, considering the Republicans too strong, the Democrats too vacillating and the working-class movement too weak. But such views, while popular do not correspond to the reality on the ground.

However the Republicans have spent billions to convince the public that victory is at hand. The US people and the world community have been subject to what might be called a campaign of ideological shock and awe, borrowed from psychological warfare manuals of the CIA and Army intelligence and used on the battlefields of Iraq. The aim is to create an aura of invincibility around the campaign. This is accomplished by repeating the mantra of the inevitability of their victory. Their design is to disorient and demoralize the opposition. The goal is to suppress by all possible means the voter turnout. However this attempt goes beyond the battle of ideas to actual efforts to forcibly suppress the vote as we saw in Florida in 2000. These efforts are underway again today and have a sharp racist edge.

If voters are convinced their candidate stands no chance, they are less likely to come out and vote. In this regard, public opinion polls have taken on a new quality. Some have had Bush ahead other show a closer race: all are very volatile. Can the polls be trusted? There’s an old American expression that sums this all up: ‘Figures never lie, but liars always figure.’

As we well know it is better to keep ones eyes and ears, closer to the ground in the voter registration and mobilization efforts particularly in what are called the battleground states. Here a huge effort is being undertaken that is truly without precedent.

Organized labor is at the center of this effort and they have devoted their resources, cadres, and finances to it. For several years now US labor is playing a new role, which shifted the terrain on which the battle for the White House and Congress is being fought. It should not be forgotten that wide sections of labor, far more than during the height of the anti-Vietnam war movement came out against intervention in Iraq. They have joined with the movements of the racially and nationally oppressed, the women’s movement, youth and students, environmentalists, business people, artists, gays, lesbians and bi-sexuals, and even some sections of the ruling class itself have joined them. An extremely broad, all-peoples electoral front against the far right has come to together and it is slowly but steadily gaining momentum.

They have been doing door-to-door voter registration, canvassing voters, raising money, making telephone calls, putting in place plans to bring out the vote on election day. Hundreds of thousands of new voters have been added to the rolls in the battleground states as a result of these efforts. From all reports, Democratic efforts at registering new voters have surpassed Republican and these voters that may well decide the outcome. In our opinion, the election will stand or fall on which side is able to turn out the highest vote.

It is important to note these efforts have given rise to new forms of organization, cooperation and action. The anti-ultra-right upsurge has released the creative impulses of the masses. They have employed great imagination in setting up new structures and combining old and new methods of resistance and struggle. Of vital significance has been the strengthening of the forms of political independence of the working-class and peoples movement. Again we must underscore the role of organized labor: Trade unions, along with civil rights groups, peace organizations have established independent political structures working both inside and outside of the Democratic party. These structures, while in existence for some time have taken on a whole new level over the last several months. Organizations like Working America,, are but a few examples of the new structures. All signs point to their becoming a permanent feature of the political landscape and the shape of things to come.

Some have taken internet organizing to a whole new level, creating organizations of millions and raising tens (hundreds) of millions of dollars. Others have focused on working with the aged, unregistered voters and youth. Still others have focused their attention on the field of concerts. As we sit round this table, artists like Bruce Springsteen, REM, the Dixie Chicks, and Babyface are holding concerts in the battleground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Missouri. Spurred on by their class brothers in the organized labor, the movement against the far right among cultural workers is simply phenomenal without precedent in recent memory.

It may be that a new social movement has been born in this battle against neo-conservative right-wing extremism. Taken as a whole, the quantitative developments of the past few years may give life to a new quality. Much depends on the outcome in three weeks. A victory will give new impetus to the peoples movement as it struggles to give meaning to the electoral platform and keep the new president steady in the face of what is sure to be tremendous pressure from the right. A loss will setback this movement and force it to fight defensive battles against a no-holds-barred right ascendancy. Still it is unlikely to defeat it. A longer-term outlook is already anticipated.

We have argued today that the battle against imperialism in its center lies through the defeat of its most reactionary sectors grouped in and around the presidency of George W. Bush. Recall that they control the White House, the Congress, and Supreme Court. This struggle while sure to be long and protracted, must confronted new realities. The framework for our struggle in the US changed after September 11th. The terrorist attack reversed the fortunes of an unpopular and failing presidency and precipitated an onslaught with which we are reeling still. Fear of terrorism has become the backdrop against which the election and indeed all other things are placed.

It may be that internationally this problem is playing a different role as seen in recent events. US imperialism is conducting a phony war on terror, using it as the basis to re-divide the world and attack movements and countries fighting for national sovereignty. They are also busy inventing new and ever more terrible methods of mass destruction, while the danger of their proliferation to fanatical right-wing individuals and groups like Al Queda grows more possible. How should our movement confront this? We remember the leadership given on this question by President Fidel Castro who in the aftermath of September 11th called for an international conference on terror. In the face of US imperialism’s brutal onslaught in Iraq that call has receded to the background, but the issue will not go away.

We recognize that imperialism uses the ‘terrorism’ charge with a broad stroke to attack peoples and nations legitimate right to defend their homes, lives and national sovereignty. We completely support this right. At the same time, it should not deter us from engaging this issue. We should think through the ways and means of grappling with it.

Terrorism – the attack on civilian targets- is mainly a right wing tool and so it must be exposed. At the same time, frustration and centuries old oppression at times gives rise to terrorist tactics. Our complete solidarity with peoples and countries fighting for their sovereignty and independence need not require endorsement of every tactic.

For now we engage it by building a broad popular movement against the far right. We do it by recognizing the right of the Palestinian people to a homeland within the framework of a two-state solution, in which they and Israel can live in peace. We do it by calling for an end to the blockade of Cuba, and demanding the withdrawal of US troops from all bases abroad, and for a serious resolution to the problems of the world’s poor.

We are fighting for a more peaceful, but also a more livable world. As the world anti-war and anti-globalization movements, alongside many new victories for our movement attest, there is much to build on. Comrades we thank you for listening. We embrace our hosts, we greet you and wish you well.


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