Build Unity to Take Back Our Country in 2004!: Defeat Bush and the Ultra Right!

February 11, 2004

National 2004 Elections Conference, Communist Party USA
January 31, 2004, New York City

Keynote Address

1. Introduction

I would like to join in welcoming everyone this morning. What a beautiful turnout from all corners of our country. The overwhelming response to this conference reflects a growing determination that it is both necessary and possible to deliver a resounding defeat to the Bush administration on November 2. The hard work of the Political Action Commission and the Organizing Department, under direction of the National Board, has made this day possible.

Let’s begin by recognizing those of our candidates and elected officials from this election cycle here today, and let’s also appreciate our long-time standard bearer in Arizona, Lorenzo Torrez.

This month marks the 60th anniversary of Ben Davis taking office, the great Communist Councilman from Harlem. He joined Pete Cacchione from Brooklyn who had won election four years earlier. The two Communist councilmen had been chosen by the voters in New York under a proportional representation voting system, which allowed voters to indicate their first, second and third choice on the ticket, thereby giving a greater chance for minority candidates to win.

This was the period of World War II, and the United Front against fascism. Pete and Ben, backed up by strong neighborhood organization, played such a strong unity role on the Council, and placed demands so successfully for fair taxes and fair rents that the corporate power structure quickly moved to disband proportional representation. Last November, Republican Mayor Bloomberg tried to change the city charter of New York again to further silence the voices of the working people and racially oppressed. But this time those who would undemocratically limit voting rights were delivered a resounding defeat.

A key organizer in the field with Ben and Pete was Comrade Si Gerson, a great political leader whose contributions laid the foundation for the strategy and tactics we develop today. He was the behind-the-scenes strategist when Gus Hall and Jarvis Tyner ran on the Communist Party Presidential ticket, and when I was candidate for Congress in Connecticut in the 70s and 80s. Although he could not be here in person, let us send warm greetings and deep appreciation from this important and exciting conference to Comrade Si Gerson.

2. Capitalist Framework

The 2004 election is a turning point that will make history one way or the other. The backdrop is the mighty battle being waged by right-wing capitalist interests for hegemony over all the world’s resources, markets and labor. The shocking disparity between wealth and poverty worldwide, and the never-ending search for new sources of profit, set the stage for sharp conflict. The circles around the Bush administration have made it clear they are prepared to use military aggression and curtail democratic rights whenever and wherever they choose, regardless of the consequences for the people of the world.

Business circles are not unanimous, however. When former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill is targeted for exposing the truth that Bush planned to invade Iraq long before 9/11 and when Chief Inspector David Kay is targeted for exposing the truth that there were no weapons of mass destruction, it is clear that this administration is indeed vulnerable.

This election is an ideological battle for hearts and minds. In the next nine months, the Bush administration will raise and spend a record $300 million to convince working people that their interests are the same as the interests of Wall Street. They will engage in tactics to pit one group against the other as a smokescreen cover up of their own responsibility for insecurity, inequality, pain and suffering.

Ohio AFL-CIO president William Burga says it plain, that the defeat of George Bush is necessary to stand up to ‘an increasing selfishness and individualist tendency, increasingly conservative and an over-ripe, nearly rotten, capitalist society and culture.’

On Tuesday, November 2, the voters will judge the extremist, life-threatening policies of the Bush administration. The challenge to labor and the African-American and Latino communities and women, the challenge to the broad alliance of environment, peace, youth, seniors and other forces, and the challenge to the Communist Party is to provide clarity on the issues, and turn anger into organization and movement-building to get out the vote.

A major contribution of our Party, and the goal of this conference, is to raise the ability to forge unity of purpose and action, and in so-doing increase the size of our Party to build a movement strong enough to change the priorities of this country toward ‘people before profits’.

3. State of the Union – The Great Deception

Bush laid out his election year attack plan in the State of the Union message. It was filled with deceptions about the economy and outright lies about Iraq. He contemptuously dismissed those who oppose the Patriot Act, dismissed those who oppose a give-away of the treasury to the super-rich, dismissed those who support universal single-payer healthcare, dismissed those who oppose pre-emptive first-strike war.

Bush’s presentation was a clear attempt to isolate members of Congress and millions of ordinary people who stand tall for democratic rights and equal rights regardless of race, religion, country of origin, gender or sexual orientation. Instead, the State of the Union gave new cause for Bush’s defeat.

Bush presented the State of Big Corporate America. But what about the State of America for the rest of us for the vast majority that Bush left out of his speech? The great Paul Robeson sang a song that asks, ‘What is America to Me?’ describing the workers, the children, all races, all religions. ‘And especially the people, that’s America to me’. [ And finally, after years of letters and petitions, the US Postal Service has just issued the Paul Robeson stamp in recognition of this outstanding working class scholar, athlete, singer and champion of equality and world peace.]

‘What is America to Me?’

The State of America is the almost 10 million unemployed, 3 million more than when Bush took office, who can no longer put their kids through college, face the loss of their homes and loss of their retirement, loss of their health and loss of their dignity, and whose extended unemployment benefits have just been terminated by the Republican Congress. These are the victims of the fake ‘tax cut’, the victims of the giant transfer of wealth through a tax gift to those at the top who are funding George Bush’s most expensive election campaign in history.

A real jobs program would rebuild the bridges, schools, water treatment plants, and parks of our nation, while sending hundreds of billions to cities and states to fully staff education, childcare, health care and other peoples’ needs. A real jobs program would focus spending and job creation in the African-American and Latino communities where jobless rates are up to twice as high because of overt and institutional racism.

The State of America is the 43 million who have no health coverage; The State of America is 70,000 grocery workers on strike/lockout in Southern California, standing up for the right to health care; The State of America is our mothers and fathers and grandparents forced to sit up at night wondering how they can afford the medications their doctor has prescribed. These are the victims of the Pharmaceutical and insurance conglomerates whose giant campaign contributions have bought a fake ‘Medicare reform’ that will not deliver prescription drugs, but will simply destroy the entire program.

A real prescription drug program would be included in health care for all legislation. Health care is a right, not a privilege.

The State of America is the thousands of immigrants from the countries of Latin America tragically killed in the desert and the millions living in the shadows, forced from their homelands by imperialist trade policies, robbed by trans-national corporations, searching for a way to feed their children. These are the victims of Bush’s fake ‘immigration reform’ which would deny amnesty, but would only greet slave labor for even higher profits.

A real immigration program would enact the demands of the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride and provide a clear path to citizenship, equal rights on the job and civil liberties protections.

The State of America is the millions of people of all walks of life and all ages who poured into the streets of our cities and towns as did millions in other countries to say NO to pre-emptive war on Iraq. The State of America is the 500 young servicemen and women killed on the battlefield (along with thousands of Iraqi women and children) sent forth on a lie, and those who survive to return and find their veteran services cut. These are the victims of the giant military budget while Cheney’s Haliburton gets no-bid contracts in Iraq.

A real program to meet the needs of the Iraqis would end the US occupation, bring the troops home now, end the policy of pre-emptive war, and transfer funds from the military budget to human needs.

The State of America is our children, full of expectations, eager to learn and grow, who can’t get new school books because of federal funding cuts, state and city budget crises, and their school teachers being pushed to abandon pedagogy in favor of bureaucratic testing. These are the victims of Bush’s fake ‘No Child Left Behind’ act robbed of $8 billion in a set-up to undermine public education.

A real program to leave no child behind would guarantee full funding for quality, equal public education, ‘Books Not Bombs’.

The State of America is African-Americans, and Latinos and Asians and Native Americans and those of European descent, all victims of the hypocrisy of watching the President lay a wreath for Dr. Martin Luther King while signing the papers to place a staunch enemy of civil rights on the federal bench.

A real program for civil rights would uphold enforceable measures to achieve equality in jobs, housing, education, health care, and would guarantee equal voting rights.

The State of America is diversity of religion, creed and sexual orientation. All are the victim of Bush’s phony marriage program and faith-based initiatives aimed at privatizing all public services and denying services to the poor, and aimed at dictating marriage to some while denying marriage to others.

A real program of family values would respect individual choice, women’s reproductive rights, and the right to a job with a living wage so parents can afford to take care of their family.

The State of America is the beauty of the mountaintops and seas, the forests, deserts, beaches. We all are the victims of Bush’s fake ‘Healthy Forests’ and ‘Clear Skies’ initiatives, which only further pollute land and water and deplete our natural resources.

A real program for the environment would protect our natural resources and develop renewable clean energy alternatives.

Our nation is severely damaged by the divisive, pro-corporate, aggressive military policies of the Bush administration. They claim to provide choice, but rather limit opportunity. They claim to provide security, but rather thrive on fear and lies. They are not patriotic, but rather serve the interests of profit-greedy trans-national corporations.

This is no ordinary election. This election requires a truth crusade on the ground a truth crusade of labor, of everyone being hurt, standing up for America, standing up for real security in our homeland. The key to winning this election will be unity, outreach and mobilization. Those who take on this task are the true ‘patriots’ of our time. As the truth is better understood, people will – and are – responding.

4. Approach to Democratic Primaries

We are meeting in the midst of the early primary and caucus season. While the country remains divided, polls show that opinions are shifting, and that Bush is vulnerable. After the State of the Union message, 52 percent of registered voters did not want Bush elected. (Newsweek Poll), compared to 44 percent who said they would like Bush elected. 52 percent of registered voters said they are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country this year. They listed their top concerns as: the economy and jobs (83%); health care (75%) and education (74%); followed by the situation in Iraq and terrorism and homeland security (70%).

After the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries, 47 percent of registered voters said they would elect Kerry, while 46 percent preferred Bush. Among independents, 55 percent chose Kerry, and 39 percent chose Bush. (American Research Group)

Our approach to the primaries has been based on building unity by:* keeping the fire on the Bush administration and staying on the issues* not getting boxed into any one primary campaign, while at the same time building support for the most advanced in the field* encouraging the maximum labor representation at the Democratic National Convention no matter which candidate that union has endorsed

When Tim Wheeler was in Iowa before the caucuses representing the Peoples Weekly World, he and the Iowa comrades found that no matter which candidate any voter favored, in the end just about everyone was focused on the need to defeat George W. Bush. Tim describes the power of the anti-corporate, pro-peace sentiments of the Iowa voters as influencing the message that both Kerry and Edwards brought out during those final days. As an expression of the deep peace sentiment in the state, one caucus meeting unanimously passed a resolution to bring the troops home from Iraq.

Nuestro Mundo editor Jose Cruz said that in New Hampshire, where the turnout was a record 214,000, the over-riding atmosphere was also the desire to defeat Bush in November. Support for Kerry was primarily based on the perception of electability because of his record of military service, and because, in response to the voice of the people, he began putting economic issues up front. The biggest issue on voters’ minds was the need for healthcare and jobs, and then the war in Iraq. In the Republican primary, seven percent voted for Kerry and other Democratic candidates.

The results in Iowa, where Dean and Gephardt came in third and a distant fourth despite their labor endorsements, are being carefully examined. The media played its role by continuously beating-up on Dean in reaction to his opposition to the war and his stand against racism. The media played up the competitive campaigning between the large industrial unions who endorsed Gephardt and the large service unions who endorsed Dean.

In the aftermath of the withdrawal of Gephardt from the race, the United Steel Workers of America reaffirmed its commitment to act in solidarity with the other 21 unions of the Alliance for Economic Justice if any future endorsement is to take place. It is hoped that by the time of the Democratic Convention in July, the unions of the AFL-CIO will join together behind one candidate, with an emphasis on organizing on the issues.

For us the challenge is to contribute to the greatest unity in labor, keeping the fire on Bush. Labor delegates who understand this can play an important role at the Democratic National Convention, no matter which of the candidates they are pledged to.

There is not time in this report to assess each individual candidate remaining in the Democratic field. I think we can say that, with a few exceptions, they are essentially center forces to one degree or another. It is significant that Kerry has concluded that he must continue to take a stronger anti-corporate, populist stance to maintain his frontrunner place.

The exception to the right is Lieberman, who campaigned heavily for the unaffiliated voters in New Hampshire’s primary, with only limited success. His general conservatism and pro-war views and his readiness to compromise with the Bush agenda are in sharp contrast with the bulk of Democratic voters.

Campaigning to ‘end the male-only sign on the White House door’, Carol Moseley-Braun made a unique contribution before dropping out in favor of Dean. Al Sharpton’s mastery of rhetoric, opposition to the war on Iraq, and progressive economic and social program made a good contribution early on, but his part in the attack on Dean in later debates was disappointing.

Dennis Kucinich, who co-chairs the Progressive Caucus in Congress, is playing a singularly courageous role by offering a strong, anti-monopoly program connecting the necessity to cut the military budget with the crying economic needs of working people. He does not give an inch in the debates, although his organization on the ground is uneven, and often attracts those who do not understand the need for broad outreach and unity to defeat the ultra-right. Democrats who show support for this advanced program by voting for Kucinich in the primaries are helping shift the debate and thereby contributing toward a stronger fight against Bush.

This Tuesday, seven more states will vote, including South Carolina, Missouri, Arizona and New Mexico. The issue of poverty and racism has been put on the table. There is an opportunity in every state around their own primary to engage potential voters in preparation for November.

5. Congress

In addition to the presidential primary, there are some important primaries for Congress and state legislature.

We should not underestimate the importance of wresting the House and Senate out of ultra-right Republican control. Some critical bills have been decided by only one vote. For example, the phony Medicare Reform bill, which will cost seniors more and opens the door for privatization of the program to the benefit of the insurance and pharmaceutical industry, passed the House by only one vote. This bill must be repealed.

Thirty-four Senate seats are up for election — 19 are Democrat, and 15 are Republican. The Republicans only control the Senate by two seats. [Republicans have 51 Senators, Democrats have 48 and 1 independent.] In the House there are 435 seats up for election. Republicans control the House by 12 seats. [Republicans have 229 seats, Democrats have 205 seats, and 1 independent.]

The Congress is being misused and abused as a tool of the Bush administration. Democratic members of Congress are being left out of the conversation. Last week, in the dead of the night, despicable bills unable to pass on their own were inserted into the omnibus appropriations bill, including school vouchers for the District of Columbia. Pro-worker language was removed, including an amendment stopping Bush’s overtime takeaway regulations! Funds are being withheld from districts where Democratic members of Congress refused to go along.

This is the same kind of undemocratic tactic that was used to ram through the Patriot Act. The right wing is counting on control of Congress to carry out their plan to dismantle every vestige of the New Deal legislation won through mass struggle, including Social Security. The labor and people’s alliance needs the maximum number of pro-worker members of Congress.

In 1996, in the midst of a massive effort to end Republican control of Congress, the labor movement launched a national campaign to raise the minimum wage. That victory was won even with reactionary Republican Newt Gingrich as Speaker of the House. It was won with coordinated protests at the home offices of vulnerable Republicans. It was won with a campaign of phone calls, demonstrations, and public education involving many thousands of working people and captured local media attention.

The fight for a Congressional inquiry into 9/11, the fight to extend unemployment insurance and protect overtime, to win health care and job creation, the fight to bring the troops home from Iraq and dismantle the Patriot Act, all are part of the 2004 election campaign. Building broad, mass actions on these issues and others has the potential to mobilize millions of voters who can become the organizers to get out the vote on Election Day.

6. Hope not Fear

Only days after 9/11, a major demonstration by the unions at Yale was to take place. Some wanted to cancel the action in memory of the members of their union, almost all new immigrants, restaurant workers killed in the Twin Towers. In the end, the demonstration went forward, with the biggest turnout ever, around the slogan ‘Hope not Fear’. That slogan, ‘Hope not Fear’, has traveled from the picket line to the ballot box, capturing the aspirations of working people, and the possibilities of what can be achieved with united action.

The Bush administration is unabashedly playing on fear for voters, as they did in 2002; fear of terrorism, fear of immigrants, fear of diversity. Fear leads to division, not unity. It is a smokescreen used very effectively by Bush strategists like Karl Rove, to divert attentions from job loss and budget cuts and to turn insecurity into fear. But it will not be as easy in 2004.

The idea that the Bush administration is providing real security is a hoax. They have unlimited resources for the Department of Homeland Security to carry out psychological warfare with orange code alerts. But when it comes to providing aid to financially strapped cities and towns for local fire and police services, the coffers of The Department of Homeland Security are empty.

The use of tax cuts for the rich plus the largest military budget in our history, and spending on the Iraq war all serve the interests of the Bush administration to bankrupt the federal government so that it can no longer fulfill the role of meeting human needs and providing for the general populace.

Labor and the people’s movement have the job of educating and alerting their members and the entire public about the massive deception, lies, and thievery of the Bush administration, and at the same time raising sights on what is possible to win given the resources in our country.

7. Labor and the Mid-West

At the core of the all-people’s movement to defeat the ultra-right is labor and its allies, squarely in the cross-hairs of the administrations’ fire.

The AFL-CIO Labor 2004 program is a very ambitious, all-out effort aimed at the battle ground states, especially Ohio, Missouri and Florida, key to winning the presidency. Labor 2004 is centered on 16 swing states with a significant number of union members especially in the Mid-West, with a specific action program to reach frequent voters, inactive voters, and new voters.

The Mid-West, the center of industrial unionism, has been severely hit by the economic crisis, with the flight of thousands of industrial jobs, and demise of family farms. Five of the 15 contested US Senate seats are in the Mid-West, including an open seat in Illinois and a challenge by Nancy Farmer, Missouri’s first woman treasurer, against Bush ally Senator Kit Bond.

In 2000, the elections in the Mid-West states were closely contested. Ohio, Missouri and Indiana went to Bush. Pennsylvania and Michigan narrowly went to Gore. These states have significant numbers of union members, and also significant African-American and Latino population. The AFL-CIO and affiliated unions are in the epicenter of this war, and we are very much a part of it.

Building on the accomplishments of past years, the goals are to increase the number of union voters by 5%, increase the number of union voters who vote Democratic by 5%, and increase the vote of African-American, Latino and women workers by 5% through joint efforts with clergy and community organizations.

The key is education, especially for union members who are ‘swing voters’ – who vote differently in different elections. The Labor 2004 Plan of Action includes new methods of engaging members with information and action on the issues.

Due to the loss of union jobs through plant closings, even an increased anti-Bush union vote is not enough by itself to move battleground states that went Republican in 2000 into the Democratic column. This fact has pushed the AFL-CIO to examine new ways of building alliances and coalitions with the African-American and Latino working class communities and with retirees through churches, civic organizations and door-to-door.

After a rocky start, hurt by insensitivity to existing African-American leadership and in particular to the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, corrections have been made and a number of pilot projects are in operation. A Cleveland non-partisan voter drive involving many churches in the African-American community along with labor registered 5,000 new voters in two weeks.

The Labor 2004 program also includes fielding more active union members for public office. In the last four years, over 2500 union members have been elected, mostly to state or local office, but also to Congress, opening new possibilities for political independence to flex its muscle.

The status of labor’s election activity is uneven around the country. Different international unions are more or less involved in electoral work and organizing the unorganized. In some areas, dependence on the Democratic Party structure continues to be a hold back. In some states AFL-CIO constituency groups do not exist, but where they do they are important to build: A. Philip Randolph Institute, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Coalition of Labor Union Women, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement and Pride At Work, as well as the Alliance for Retired Americans and Jobs with Justice.

8. A National Crusade

Maximum turnout is needed in every state to assure the largest popular vote against Bush. It is not enough to rely on the electoral vote in battleground states. In order to reverse the reactionary actions of the Bush administration, an overwhelming vote to defeat him is needed in every state. No state should be conceded.

The experience of Labor 2004 in target states, especially Ohio, can be used as an example to carry an energetic campaign to defeat Bush into every community across this country. We should help find the ways to take this policy and bring it to life everywhere.

A broad range of organizations and coalitions at the national level are working toward record voter registration numbers. The National Council of La Raza’s Latino Empowerment and Advocacy Project is working jointly with the NAACP National Voter Fund and others toward one million new voters. Over 5.7 million Latinos voted in the presidential election in 2000. That number could increase by as many as 1.9 million voters in 2004. Raul Yzaguirre, president of the National Council of La Raza says they are working ‘in the best interest of our country to ensure that civic participation is strengthened across the board.’

The Unity’04 Campaign which comprises 130 African-American and labor organizations is mobilizing to increase Black voter turnout by five percent in 24 states. Special focus is in the South, where 55% of the Black population resides, and among youth, which comprise almost half of the Black voting age population. The Unity’04 Campaign also includes measures to ensure that every voter knows what their rights are at the polls, is able to cast a ballot without fear or intimidation, and has their vote counted in the 2004 elections.

A broad scope of national and state-wide organizations are involved in voter registration and education from the National Organization of Women, Emily’s List, Rock the Vote, and the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce, to the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations, youth and senior groups. In the cultural arena, dozens of vocal artists, movie stars, authors and alternative media personalities are taking on the administration.

Many in the peace movement who have not participated in electoral politics in the past are coming to the conclusion that this arena of struggle is primary in 2004. United for Peace and Justice has developed a year of election activities connected to the demand that the occupation of Iraq be ended.

Within the Green Party, debates are taking place about whether or not to field a presidential candidate. The fact that there are now over 175 Greens elected to local office is a reflection of a general search for independent alternatives. Among Greens who oppose fielding a presidential candidate this year, in favor of an all-out focus on defeating Bush, are Elizabeth Horton Sheff, a member of the Hartford City Council, and Matt Gonzalez who received 43% of the vote for Mayor of San Francisco. Their recognition of the need for a united front approach reflects expectations from their supporters, and practical experience serving in public office.

While Ralph Nader will not run as a Green, he is still considering an independent candidacy for President. Many who supported Nader in 2000 have come to a different conclusion in 2004. Some Nader supporters have gravitated to the Dean campaign. Many others are supporting Kucinich. In some cases, like New Mexico, the Green dominance of the Kucinich campaign has unfortunately led to poor relations within the Democratic Party, undermining votes in the primary. A broad coalition approach is the only winning ticket to defeat the ultra-right.

The all-out mobilization to defeat Bush on November 2 is not an end-point. It is a critical and necessary step along the way to much bigger change. There is need for a labor and people’s party in this country that is not beholden to corporate dollars, but rather is people powered and in a position to challenge corporate monopoly head-on.

The Working Families Party in New York is an excellent example to study. They won a tremendous victory in November when Letitia James became the first independent to win election to the City Council on the Working Families Party line in a quarter century. As a Black woman union leader, her contribution is already being deeply felt. The Working Families Party is expanding into other states. In Connecticut, 25 candidates won ballot status in state legislative districts and two candidates have been elected on the Working Families Party line to City Council in Willimantic.

This intensive year of activity should be carried out in a way that builds a lasting movement able to take on issues of war, poverty and inequality no matter who wins. Such a development would open many new doors for local, state and national independent politics and candidates.

9. Unity and democratic rights

Appeals to racism are central to the ultra-right strategy of divide and conquer, and especially to their Southern Strategy of eliminating Democratic representation in the South. This must be answered and overcome if the campaign to defeat Bush is to succeed.

A special approach to overcome right-wing racist appeals is critical, including outreach to white churchgoers in swing states. The rural vote must not be written off, but rather fought for, and combined together in a winning equation with the overwhelming opposition to Bush among African-American voters, the strong opposition among Latino voters, women voters, and union voters.

Every possible tactic has been utilized by the Bush forces to suppress the African-American and Latino vote. In 2000 in Jacksonville, Florida and Missouri, false information was circulated in the African-American community about who was eligible to vote. Voters who had never even been arrested were purged from the rolls supposedly because of their felon status.

A Harvard study, ‘Democracy Spoiled’, estimates at least 1.9 million votes went uncounted in November 2000, primarily in Counties with large African-American populations. South Carolina, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana and Wyoming all had higher rates of ballot spoilage than even Florida.

Racism and false patriotism were combined by Republicans in their 2002 targeting for defeat of Southern critics of Bush foreign policy, including Congressional Black Caucus members David Hilliard of Alabama and Cynthia McKinney of Georgia. The ultra-right American-Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC) poured in thousands of dollars combined with massive Republican cross-voting to defeat McKinney in the Democratic primary.

Georgia Senator Max Cleland, now actively campaigning with John Kerry, was targeted by the far-right in the 2002 general election after voting against the war on Iraq, including vicious television ads implying a lack of patriotism despite losing three limbs in Vietnam. Such tactics were not successful against California Rep. Barbara Lee, who commanded an overwhelming re-election margin while leading the fight against the war and for an investigation into 9/11.

In 2003, Republican strategists roamed the country upturning democratic rights in an overt attempt to gain control of key states before the 2004 presidential election.

The attempt to unseat Philadelphia Mayor Street, and to pit African-Americans against white voters, backfired. When FBI bugs were discovered in the African-American mayor’s office with no explanation, the electorate concluded this was a move to seize Republican control of Pennsylvania’s largest city before the presidential elections, and Street was overwhelmingly returned to office.

The abuse of the redistricting process in Texas, engineered by Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay expressly to eliminate Democratic representation, and the recall of Democratic Governor Gray Davis in California, were conveniently engineered to consolidate Republican control. Both have strong racist, anti-immigrant and anti-democratic overtones. The year before, in Los Angeles, a victory against racist division had been won when African-American and Mexican-American voters joined together to elect two labor leaders, one African-American and one Mexican-American, to city government.

This continuing pattern of denial of democratic rights and targeting of African-American and Latino voters is a frontal attack on civil rights and labor rights, and is meant to deny political representation. There is need for a new, massive civil rights movement against racism and for equal voting rights, to break down all the barriers to democratic participation and representation.

As the comrades from Texas say, the ultra-right may be trying to rig the election process, but in Bush’s home state ‘we aren’t lying down for it.’ This month, 5,000 students at Prairie View College, a largely African-American student body, marched two and a half hours in the rain to protest a ruling, which would exclude them from voting at their campus address. Their action inspired the entire state to initiate major new voter registration drives. In Dallas, a voter drive started by the NAACP was immediately joined by union leaders, community groups, peace activists, and other civil rights organizations, including Latino and Muslim organizations.

10. Democracy at Stake

The movement to protect and expand voting rights takes on new importance in this period. The campaigns for publicly financed elections and for instant runoff voting and other forms of proportional representation are gaining new support. Testing has revealed that fraud and tampering are very possible with computerized voting machines. The demand that paper printouts be required with computerized machines is imperative, especially in light of the fact that these machines are being purchased from Diebold, one of Bush’s biggest contributors.

The Bush campaign is expected to raise record amounts of big-money contributions, which will be used to fill the airwaves and newspapers from the national to the small town level at the same time that alternative messages are kept off the air. Protests are still pouring in to CBS for refusing to air the MoveOn ad ‘Child’s Pay’ during the Super Bowl.

The Republican funds will also be used to mimic labor’s methods of voter mobilization. Door-to-door and phone canvassers will be hired in large numbers as part of the grassroots ‘Bush Team’, aimed at pulling away support from traditional Democratic voters. Young people are a special target, along with seniors, women and Latino voters.

Bush strategist Karl Rove has called on Campus Republicans to ‘play a key role in a crucial moment of our history’. To this end, 60 field representatives on 1,148 campuses are working to pull as much of the youth vote into the Bush column as they can. While Rove attempts to move campuses to the right, the anti-Bush trend among young people is strong and growing. At Pace University in New York, a mock convention of 600 elected Dennis Kucinich as their Democratic Presidential nominee.

The YCL has a very significant role to play in this battle for the youth vote, and if the new ‘Bush Lies’ feature on their website is any measure, they are up and ready for the task.

For every fake legislative initiative that the Bush administration has put forward, the ultra-right has created well-funded phony organizations to create the image of support. For example, the Concerned Women of America, whose website says ‘Marriage: one man, one woman. Support a Federal Marriage Amendment.’ The Center for Education Reform is a front for Edison Schools, Inc. Americans for Tax Reform is the base for far-right strategist Grover Norquist who would like to ‘shrink government so small it could be drowned in the bath tub.’

The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) is working in every state legislature to prevent immigrants from having driver’s licenses. The Seniors Coalition, which campaigns in favor of the Republican Medicare program, now features a ‘STOP Payment of Social Security Benefits to Illegal Immigrants’ campaign to Congress. Targeting Arab and Latino immigrants as ‘terrorists’ is a trick to create divisions among potential allies in the drive to defeat Bush and the right wing. It undermines the beauty and strength of our country, a nation of immigrants.

Many working class and ordinary people are impacted by this propaganda barrage. The Republicans may have the money, but labor and friends have the message that speaks to the real interests of the American people. The results of this election rest heavily on how effectively the idea is projected that unity can raise everyone up, division brings us all down.

‘To be effective politically, we cannot talk only to people who agree with us,’ says Bernie Sanders, the only socialist independent in the House of Representatives. In an address entitled We Are the Majority, he urged that right-wing ‘wedge-issues’ be taken head-on saying ‘We have to understand that on some issues there will be differences of opinion. But if we focus on the basic economic issues-and we explain to people that when they cast their votes solely on issues like abortion or gay rights or any other single issue, the rich and the powerful are laughing all the way to the bank-we will be successful in bringing people together and winning elections.’

11. Communist Party adds Strength

Sam Webb presented us with a challenge recently. He brought out the important fact that the larger our Party, the bigger our ability to contribute to a decisive defeat of Bush and the far-right. Therefore, how do we work to kick Bush out the door of the White House in a way that at the same time opens the door of the Communist Party to new working class leaders?

This year we celebrate the 85th anniversary of the Communist Party USA. Our world view is based on our common bond as members of the working class, of all races and nationalities, joined together in the cause of equality and basic human rights. We stand for an end to exploitation, war and oppression, and we know that the well-being of the people of our great country is tied to ending the imperialist policies of our government which threaten all of humanity.

We recognize the danger the present administration presents to democracy and peace, and we stand ready to join with all who are mobilizing an historic turnout in this election that can repudiate the brutality of the Bush administration, as we press on to achieve economic and social justice.

Why join the Communist Party?

Join because you are angry at the system, and want to be the most effective fighter to change it.

Join because a larger Party adds to building unity – Black-Brown-White unity, labor-community unity, all-people’s unity against the ultra-right. A larger Party adds to the longevity of the movement against the ultra-right, as more activists deepen their understanding of the need and possibility to change the whole system, and as more victims of the brutality of this economic system join the Party and become leaders.

Join because a larger Party adds to the ability to connect every issue to the main issue of this year – Defeat Bush and the ultra-right. In the peace movement, and the March 20 ‘The World Still Says No to War’ rallies. In the women’s movement, and the April 25 rally for reproductive rights. In the California grocery workers strike and in union organizing drives. In the battles against cuts in shelters, cuts in school funding, cuts in health care at the state and local level. In the battles to protect overtime, to extend unemployment compensation, to stop the appointment of reactionary judges, to protect the rights of immigrants.

The all-out mobilization to defeat Bush on November 2 is not separate and apart from our vision of a socialist United States, free of the exploitation and profit-driven policies that burden our country today. The movement being built to defeat the ultra-right provides opportunities to deepen understanding about the anti-democratic nature of the capitalist system and the need for fundamental change.

Every Communist Party and YCL club can contribute to a large popular vote to defeat Bush by organizing voter registration connected with education and getting out the vote, joining with others, going door to door, getting new readers of the Peoples Weekly World, inviting readers to club meetings and other activities.

Every club can examine it’s concentration area for opportunities to participate with unions and community groups to build coalitions. The 60 organizations brought together in the Cleveland voter registration campaign is a good example of how individual members and clubs can make big things happen.

A club voter drive in a low-income, multi-racial working class neighborhood can become a valuable addition to the ‘street heat’ of the labor movement, helping to expand the message and vote base into otherwise unorganized precincts. Experience shows that this work attracts new members into the Communist Party creating the possibility of being a key factor in the election of local candidates.

In addition to the activity around the country, this election demands special attention and resources to the Mid-West battleground states where our Party is an active and vital force. Hard work is already underway, and clubs and individuals are deeply involved as part of the labor-led electoral coalitions in Ohio, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and other states to make sure that the efforts to defeat Bush are successful.

In southern Ohio, the labor movement is not as strong. Here the Bush forces have reaped their victories. I think the comrades in Ohio would be very pleased to have volunteers come and help out as part of a Party/YCL Voter Summer project. Teams of volunteers could travel to Southern Ohio, get acquainted with the organizations, knock on doors, register new voters, get new readers for the Peoples Weekly World, and help slam Bush on November 2! The place to be!

A popular pamphlet is in preparation about how and why it is possible to win the Mid-west Battle ground states. Plans are on the drawing boards for teams to travel between districts within the Mid-West to help each other for special mobilizations and distributions. The workers schools held by the Ohio Party with key union activists are an example of how to place this immediate struggle into a longer-term context and building the Communist Party.

There are also plans in the making for materials that will help every district in their work. We want to publish a pamphlet on racism and the elections, a card on defeating Republican majority control of Congress, and a card exposing Bush’s lies.

Across this country, we have a responsibility to greatly expand the readership of the People’s Weekly World, the clarion voice of hope, reason and action in this election. It provides the information and knowledge that can help convince voters to come out on election day, to bring their family, friends and co-workers along with them, and hopefully to become an activist for basic change. The same for Political Affairs and Dynamic. I believe the People’s Weekly World is offering a special election year subscription rate, which gives us a great boost.

As Jarvis Tyner said in his article, Guide to a One Term Bush, ‘The times are filled with grave danger and the struggle today is great but with victory will come the promise of a better day to struggle for even greater victories. It will take a real fight, but Bush can and must be defeated!’

12. Today’s conference

Today’s conference is meant to be a hands-on, working conference, with the goal of sharing and developing many more ideas that can quickly move our work forward to the next step. It is an intensive day, but hopefully it will be enjoyable and productive.

When we leave tonight, we hope to go back home filled not only with a delicious meal, but also filled with inspiration and information that will help us popularize the significance of this election, and involve many new activists in the movement to defeat Bush and the Ultra-right in 2004 and also in the movement to fundamentally change the priorities of our nation.

The bottom line is that the devastating, dangerous, anti-human, life threatening Bush/ultra-right agenda must be delivered a resounding defeat on November 2. The entire world is grimly watching.

In his sermon delivered the Sunday after the 1965 Selma-Montgomery march for voting rights, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of the role of the white Southern Oligarchy in blocking African-Americans from voting as part of the strategy to keep Black and poor white workers at odds with each other.

‘Let us march on ballot boxes,’ he preached, ‘until race-baiters disappear from the political arena.

‘Let us march on ballot boxes until the salient misdeeds of bloodthirsty mobs will be transformed into the calculated good deeds of orderly citizens.

‘Let us march on ballot boxes until brotherhood becomes more than a meaningless word in an opening prayer, but the order of the day on every legislative agenda.

‘Let us march on ballot boxes until all over Alabama God’s children will be able to walk the earth in decency and honor.’

In 2004, Let us march on ballot boxes. Let us build a mighty movement to ‘Push Bush Out the Door in 2004!’ and turn our country around.


For democracy. For equality. For socialism. For a sustainable future and a world that puts people before profits. Join the Communist Party USA today.

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