The fight against racism: New challenges, new features, new possibilities

BY: Jarvis Tyner| May 27, 2010
The fight against racism: New challenges, new features, new possibilities

A special report to the 29th National Convention of the Communist Party

We are having a great convention. It is full of enthusiasm and confidence starting with the report and keynote of Sam Webb. Congratulations to Sam for a job well done. I have been to every party national convention since 1966 and in terms of its emphasis on action and its upbeat spirit; this is one of the best. This is a proud moment for our party.

This convention gives us the basic framework to help move the struggle for democracy and socialism forward in this complex period. It will also inspire our party and YCL, elevate our consciousness and confidence that a larger and stronger Communist Party and YCL is within our grasp. The main reason is because of the work of you comrades. Because we believed in the policies we formulated. We believed that an African American could be elected President. We have confidence that the people would do the right thing. So we hit the streets, the union halls, door to door. We phone banked and canvassed, we held house parties.

We were a part; we contributed to the historic victory that broke the 3 decade long stranglehold of the extreme right. I know some thought that we were reformist. But I think they missed the boat.

As a result of that struggle, things have changed. The trade union movement was transformed and so was the civil rights and peace movement. The immigration rights movement has reach a new level, and so has the environmental movement. And you know what else comrades? Our party has been transformed. It is in a better position to fight and grow than before the great victories of ’06 and ’08. It goes with out saying that the American people have changed, too. All of this is better then it was before. Sam listed the achievements since the last convention in his keynote. I don’t know about you, but that whole experience deepened my revolutionary commitment.

Compared to when Bush was in there, there has been remarkable change. But not as much as we think is possible, things are just beginning.

We did experience post election lull… The right took advantage of it for a time. Now the struggle continues on a higher level than before.

In his report Sam mentioned about the new racist counteroffensive. The right considers the election of Obama and the new Congress to be a fundamental challenge to their very existence. They are out to reverse things. That is what I want to talk about this morning. What the right is doing is a major threat to everything that was won and could be won in this period if it is not checked. Shortly after Obama took office these fanatics declared war on his administration. The Republican Party assumed the title of the party of “No.” Later the party of “Hell No” and proceeded to sabotage any way out of the economic crisis.

The election of Obama did not eliminate structural racism which operates in the economic base of capitalism; at the point of production, super exploitation, racist pay rates, job classifications, benefits, who’s the last hired and first fired. It also operates in the super structure; courts, legislative bodies, schools, public services, etc.

Structural racism remains a part of the basic function of US capitalism but with the election of Obama and the new Congress, the prospects of weakening structural racism are better, certainly, than it was under George Bush.

Once a black President and a reformer was elected and presented his program, the fight against racism assumed an even greater importance because it (along with anti-communism) is the main weapon the right is using to defeat the possibility for progressive change.

Every time Sarah Palin speaks she says that the Tea Party is not racist. “The people with the racist signs, why, they’re not racist they’re just angry”, they say. So they’re just angry? Have you ever met a racist that wasn’t angry?

But what are they angry about?

They don’t like these immigrants coming across our border. (They’re not talking about Canada) and Obama is giving away too much to black folks, brown folks and poor folks so the tea baggers, want to “take their government back.” They want to take their country back from the first black President…

Now this is coming from a group that is just about all white.. In fact you can say that they are mobilizing whites some armed and dangerous to take back the government from the first black president. What do you think the subtext of that is? Is there racism there? You betcha!

Or take the guy who just won the Republican nomination for US Senate in Kentucky, Rand Paul, Ron Paul’s Tea Party-libertarian son. He admitted that he was opposed to civil right enforcement when it comes to privately own companies. He says it’s all right for the government to outlaw discrimination in the public sector but if it’s done against privately owned companies, it violates their first Amendment rights.

But wait a minute, did I miss something? I thought libertarians want to eliminate the federal government’s power per se, so if that’s so, how are civil rights going to be enforced anywhere?

Then Paul went on to compare barring black people from a business to barring people with guns.

On election night he repeated the Tea Party slogan, that his victory was the beginning of, “taking our government back.”

This, comrades, is the racist mentality we are dealing with. They are to the right of George Bush and they aren’t kidding.

They are behind the Arizona racial profiling law and the law that eliminates ethnic studies in the public schools of that state. In the Texas public school curriculum the US is described as not a democracy.

Yesterday Rand Paul added to his problems when he said that we shouldn’t play the “blame game” when it comes to British Petroleum’s oil spill.

Comrades, if you don’t smell the stench of fascism with these people you may need some aromatherapy.

This is what we are dealing with. And we must not allow “criticisms” of Obama get in the way of dealing with this right danger. That’s what Rev. Joe Lowry was talking about in Detroit when he warned that the progressive forces must not miss the opportunities to advance the struggle that the election of Obama and the whole period offers.

But it’s also why the November elections are so important. These racist fanatics must be defeated.

And this is why what happened on May Day was so important. The rise of the immigrant rights/jobs movement all across this country and the growth of black, brown, white unity is the most powerful weapon against the racist danger.

The May Day marches were a powerful answer to the Tea Party racists. This movement must continue until the Arizona law is repealed and some form of amnesty and a democratic path to citizenship is won.

The election of Obama and the new congress has opened the door for a new offensive against systemic racism. We can now talk about a Marshall plan like the one Art Perlo presented yesterday.

And we would be making a big mistake if we ignored Leo Gerard’s proposal to launch a jobs for youth civil rights-like crusade with the support of the Steel workers.

Something drastic must be done to ease the unemployment situation in the communities of color. The labor movement is making new efforts to build alliances with civil rights and other groups to initiate and support the fight for jobs in communities of color.

Richard Trumka, the head of the AFL-CIO, continues to be a strong voice against racism. Recently he made another effective statement against racism. He said, “there are forces in our country that are working hard to convert justifiable anger about an economy that only seems to work for a few of us into racist and homophobic hate and violence directed at our president and heroes like Congressman John Lewis. Most of all, those forces of hate seek to divide working people- to turn our anger against each other”. He goes on to say, “I believe the only way to fight the forces of hatred is with a strong progressive tradition that includes working people in action.”

You know comrades, the fight against racism has always played a central role in the overall struggle for unity; defeating racism has always been decisive to advancing the class struggle. Our nation is going through a major transition politically and as we have been saying, through struggle a new era of progressive reform is possible but the fight against racism and for unity is decisive.

The fight against racism has to include a united struggle against the especially severe effects of the current economic crisis on the racially oppressed. Make no mistake about it, the economic and social conditions faced by racial minorities in our country are nothing short of a catastrophe.

We see the role of racism in unemployment rates double that of whites. Poverty rates in some communities are on the level of a developing country with black and brown children reaching towards the 50% mark. Our schools are collapsing because of decades of budget cuts and neglect. And now the new round of cuts is like a knife in the heart for our public schools especially in the Black and brown communities. People are losing their jobs, their homes, they savings, their pensions at rates two and three times the national average. The crisis among youth is appalling; among non-white youth it is catastrophic. If over Sixty five percent jobless rates among youth in communities of color continue it will destroy those communities. It’s happening everyday comrades…

I heard comrade Shelby at the Illinois convention say the key to meeting the crisis of drugs, high murder rates, the collapse of families etc. is jobs, jobs, jobs… I would add, good jobs with strong affirmative action are needed so that black, brown, native American Indian, Asian Pacific people are not left in the crisis phase of the depression while others are recovering. That’s been the pattern in the past; a pattern that must be broken.

The jobs and the immigrant rights fights are both key to defeating racism and the right danger.

Georgia Congressman John Lewis said on election night 2008 that this election shows that we can become a truly integrated society. Our party has long held that estimate. There is a multiracial, anti-racist majority that can be organized and mobilized to defeat the racism. And that is a good thing. When you look at the trends among youth today who have a wonderful vision of a future of social justice (including a growing pro socialist attitude) that is a good thing. It also demands a larger and more multiracial Young Communist League.

The elimination of structural racism is key to creating a more perfect union and raising the standard of living and democratic rights of all working people. The main beneficiary of racial discrimination is the capitalist class. Where discrimination is the highest, unionization is the lowest and so are the wages of all workers. A divided working class does not have the fighting capacity it needs to improve its life especially in times of economic crisis. The fight against the racism of the Tea Party fanatics has to be the highest priority for our party.

We must build our party and the YCL all across this country among the racially oppressed. Without that we cannot play our role as a party.

Sam mentioned the role of white communists in the fight against racism. White comrades have a tremendous role in the struggle to convince white workers and people to reject racism. Gus Hall’s book Fighting Racism is a must read in that regard. But we also have the wonderful life examples of comrades like George Meyers a white southerner born into rural poverty who became an outstanding leader of the CIO and our party’s labor secretary for many years. George was very effective in convincing white workers to reject racism.

And I remember back in the 60s when comrade Debbie Amis was arrested in Georgia for her SNCC civil rights activities. When the national leadership got the word that a young black women comrade was in a southern Jim Crow jail it was George Meyer who made an emergency trip to get Debbie out. Debbie tells the story of how wonderful it was to see big George come into that southern jail to get her out. George was the Party’s Southern Organizer at the time and he had built a network of contacts throughout the South. When I had to go South in 1964 to organize for the W. E. B. DuBois Clubs founding convention, it was George that supplied me with a list of contacts in several states that I could talk too. George was a model communist.

This is the kind of leadership in the fight against racism that we have to emulate.

Racial minorities are now over one third of our population. By 2042 they will make up more than 50 percent of the U.S. population. By 2050 the overall population is projected to be 439 million what we call racial minorities today will reach the 54 percent majority mark. Structural racism must be defeated. What kind of society will this be when the majority are subjected to severe racial oppression. If things don’t change that is what we face.

Make no mistake; much of the panic that the right wing promotes over immigration is about a deep-seated fear that we are becoming a fully integrated multi racial democracy. The election of the first African American President shows that a majority can be won to reject racism. With united struggle that is where we are headed.

We are hopeful comrades. The broad democratic alliance that won in 2008 is back on its feet and is becoming more united in struggle. Racism can be defeated and that is what we intend to do.



    Jarvis Tyner is executive vice chair of the Communist Party USA and a long-time member of the party's national board.. He was a founding member of the Black Radical Congress and served on its national coordinating committee for five years.

    Tyner was born in the Mill Creek community of West Philadelphia in 1941 and graduated from West Philadelphia High School. He joined the Communist Party USA at the age of 20. After several years working in various industrial jobs in the Philadelphia area, where he was a member of the Amalgamated Lithographers and the Teamsters union, he moved to New York in 1967 to become the national chair of the DuBois Clubs of America, and later founding chair of the Young Workers Liberation League. He was the Communist Party USA candidate for vice president of the U.S. in 1972 and 1976, running with party leader Gus Hall.

    As a leader of the CPUSA Tyner has been an active public spokesperson against racism, imperialism and war. He has written numerous articles and pamphlets and appears on the media, campuses and in other public venues advocating for peace, equality and the socialist alternative. He currently resides in the Inwood section of Manhattan, N.Y., is married and the father of four adult children and one grandchild.


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