Pecinovsky discusses CP’s history of fighting racism in campus talks

April 30, 2019
Pecinovsky discusses CP’s history of fighting racism in campus talks


Tony Pecinovsky, president of the St. Louis Worker’s Education Center (AFL-CIO), spoke to an audience of 40 people on the campus of North Carolina State University in Raleigh last week. His talk, “Fighting Racism with Solidarity: 100 Years of Radical Struggle,” focused on the oft-ignored role of communists in the struggle against racism from the 1930s through the 1970s.

The talk opened with a brief discussion of the relationship between capitalism and race, “acknowledging slavery and genocide as capitalism’s midwives.”

Pecinovsky went on to describe the emergence of a strong “Red-Black alliance” under the leadership of Communist Party leader William L. Patterson, with the defense of the Scottsboro Nine in the early 1930s.

This alliance continued with the National Negro Congress (late 1930s), the Council on African Affairs, the Civil Rights Congress (mid-1940s to mid-1950s), the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, and the National Anti-Imperialist Movement in Solidarity with African Liberation (both in the early 1970s).

The task of recovering and celebrating this history is difficult, Pecinovsky explained, “especially given the current rightward trajectory of our country, the historic particulars of racial oppression from which our nation was founded, and the uniquely American form of amnesia that has apparently targeted the historical profession,” making “positive appraisals of communists nearly non-existent.”

Highlighting the long reach and strong persistence of the international Red-Black alliance, the CPUSA and labor organizer quoted long-time CPUSA leader Henry Winston who said, “If you are going to defeat the man, you cannot play the man’s game and the man’s game is Anti-Communism.”

Given the horrors of racism, Pecinovsky asserted, “those with an interest in more radical solutions—socialism in the first place—should at least be given a fair hearing.”

Attendees of the event included faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, and community members. After the talk and a brief question period, the audience was invited to visit a literature table and sign up for the local CPUSA mailing list. Surprised comments after the talk evidenced Pecinovky’s assertion that the communist history of fighting racism has been effectively erased.

Pecinovsky then joined members of the NC State Graduate Student Workers Union, currently organizing under the auspices of the UE, for burgers and discussion at a local pub. The students shared the challenges of organizing in a Right to Work state, especially North Carolina, which has one of the most restrictive bans on public employee collective bargaining.

Pecinovsky urged the students not to be daunted. “The most revolutionary thing you can do is challenge power where you are,” he said. “That’s what you’re doing. Keep doing it.”

The following evening, Pecinovsky spoke to a smaller audience of CPUSA and YDSA members at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, followed by lively discussion over pizza.

“It should not come as a surprise that where we find the struggle against racism, we often also find those who struggle against capitalism,” Pecinovsky pointed out. The link between the two “adds nuance and complexity to today’s righteous demand, Black Lives Matter, a demand which evokes centuries of struggle against racist oppression.”

Pecinovsky is the author of “Let Them Tremble: Biographical Interventions Marking 100 Years of the Communist Party, USA,” forthcoming from International Publishers. He is available for speaking engagements, book signings and other presentations. Contact him at

Pecinovsky’s trip was funded by People Before Profits Education Fund, co-sponsored by campus organizations and the Triangle Area and Greensboro clubs of CPUSA (



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