Left-center unity in 2020

BY: T. J. Campsey| May 22, 2020
Left-center unity in 2020


As a new member of the CPUSA, I’ve spent my first month attempting to understand how the Party works and what its plan for building socialism is. I’ve read the program and constitution, attended and watched recordings of webinars, read articles on cpusa.org and People’s World, watched the weekly YouTube videos, and participated in the Party’s Discord channel. As a newcomer I’ve noticed frustration and confusion among some members (especially new members) over how the Party leadership has expressed practical steps to implement our program. This became quite evident during Scott’s presentation for the National School on April 25, when he asked for questions about the first section and immediately received questions about Joe Biden.

In Discord, sentiments about Joe Biden are strong, and there have been some serious debates about how the program should be implemented. Sometimes they’ve been productive, many times they have not. In the interest of unity, I’d like to lay out my understanding of the Party’s strategy, how I’ve seen leaders talk about the strategy, and some suggestions to make the way forward more clear for the whole membership.

Our Party program lays out a long-term strategy to build socialism in the U.S. It identifies a trend that started in the 1980s with a section of the capitalist class who began to consolidate the far right. This far-right movement has developed over the last 40 years and is considered a major threat to our ability to continue pushing the struggle forward. For this reason, building a broad-based movement against the far right is paramount. With the success of this movement we will not only open up political space to move forward; in the process of defeating the far right, we will build the kind of anti-monopoly coalition needed to implement the next step, which is to wrest control of the government from the two dominant parties and make way for a labor-led people’s party. That party will then work to the task of building revolutionary socialism in the U.S.

I joined the Party because of its long history in the struggle and its international ties with the world communist movement. When I read the program, I was inspired to see such a clear and well-constructed strategy. In my experience as an activist, I’d never seen a vision for the future spelled out so well and so grounded in dialectical materialism. With that in mind, I’ll move to why I think there is confusion in the ranks about practical implementation.

I’ve seen it said many times that the Party should not be focused on individual candidates for president, and rather look at policies that resonate with the working class. I can generally agree with that sentiment; however, sometimes we need to understand how individual candidates fall within the framework of the left-center coalition. We’ve been getting a lot of mixed messages when it comes to Joe Biden:

  • Our Party doesn’t endorse candidates who aren’t members of the CPUSA.
  • We must defeat Trump in November.
  • We must all vote.
  • Third parties can act against left-center unity.

Taken together, these messages raise the question: Who do we vote for in November? I’m not the only one who has read a subtext here and seen a tacit endorsement of Biden. I realize there’s a lot of time between here and the convention when Biden will likely be nominated. That gives us time to consider just where his career has placed him in the rise of the far right.

The program says:

In limited instances, splits in the ruling class appear and the less reactionary segments of the capitalist class will join the fight against the more backward sections. This all-people’s front to defeat the extreme right is in the process of developing, learning, and being tested in giant struggles: for peace, to address environmental crises, to protect social programs and services, to win health care for all, and to wrest control of all three branches of government from the stranglehold of the extreme right.

Was Biden joining the fight when he raked Anita Hill across the coals? What about when he used his position as chair of the Foreign Relations Committee to champion Bush’s war on Iraq?

Later in the program we see the Democrats grouped into two categories:

There exists an internal struggle within the Democratic Party among centrist forces who collaborate with the right wing, centrist forces opposed to the right wing, and more progressive, even socialist, trends. Those opposed to the right wing are sometimes willing to align with progressive elements that seek to defeat the program of the extreme right.

We see mention of unprincipled compromises Democrats have made:

Since the early 1980s, the Republican Party, increasingly dominated by its extreme right wing, has controlled much of the national legislative agenda, while the leadership of the Democratic Party often ceded ground and initiative. Some Democrats openly collaborated with fossil fuel companies, and some engaged in unprincipled compromise with Republicans, with anti-people objectives such as “welfare reform” and “three strikes laws” that led to mass incarceration.

When he authored the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, or “Crime Law,” he contributed directly to the mass incarceration our Party views as an unprincipled compromise. On top of compromising with the extreme right, in my estimation, Biden has been a collaborator with the extreme right. This is not just about his past. He has shown he will continue to collaborate when he released a fear-mongering YouTube ad titled “Unprepared.” The ad attacks Trump for being too soft on China, thereby allowing Chinese travelers to spread the virus to the U.S. With increases in hate crimes against Asian Americans over the course of the pandemic, Biden has demonstrated he will inflame the bigotry targeting that part of the working class. He has demonstrated he is willing to outdo Trump’s racist, fascistic tendencies from the right!

We must recognize a Biden presidency as a continuation of the growth of the extreme right. If we’re not explicit in calling it what it is and continue a tacit endorsement of Biden, we might risk setting back our work to build a left-center coalition. When Chinese American workers see us overlook his attacks against their community, when women workers see us overlook the rape allegations against him, what will that do to the unity of the working class against fascism?

I’m well aware that defeating the extreme right takes more than just beating Trump in November. It takes a wide range of movement-building tactics from multiple fronts. I’ll defer to the program with two choice phrases on how to beat the right:

Members of the Communist Party work to strengthen the labor unions, civil rights, peace, youth, student, religious and other community organizations and social networks in which they participate. They promote the voice and effective participation and leadership of the working class in all struggles for progress. They promote unity with the allies of the working class in the course of fighting for the interest of the working class and common goals shared with a majority of the people of our country. Our members organize to build activism and leadership at the grassroots level. . . .

To this end, the activities of the Communist Party aim to:

  • Build broad unity to achieve the strategic and tactical goals of the working class.
  • Bring forward working-class leadership and the interests of the working class in all progressive movements. National progressive coalitions, community-based organizations in working-class communities, and student-labor coalitions are all forms that bring working-class leadership to the broader movement.
  • Build full class and socialist consciousness. It is the job of Communists, while engaged with others in active struggle, to show how all struggles have common aspects and common interests, to show the interests of organized labor and all the people’s movements in uniting against our common capitalist enemies.

It’s my position that the Party must explicitly state we do not support Biden’s candidacy and direct the Party membership to pursue other avenues of resistance against the extreme right.

The opinions of the author do not necessarily reflect the positions of the CPUSA.

Image: Marysalome, Creative Commons (BY 2.0).


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