United and Popular Front: Lessons from 1935-2017

Posted by Janet Tuckers on June 6, 2017 under Strategy | Be the First to Comment

United and Popular Front:
Lessons from 1935-2017

By Paul Krehbiel

Donald Trump won the presidency in November 2016 on promises of jobs, coupled with appeals to those swayed by racism, nationalism, and misogyny. He also promoted the undermining of human rights, advocated expanding corporate power, appealed to white workers while pushing anti-working-class policies, scapegoated immigrants and Muslims, promoted militarism and the erosion of democracy, and championed authoritarianism. A number of scholars have written about many of these characteristics in politics, such as Robert Paxton and others, as they were key elements of fascist regimes that came to power in Europe after WWI, especially Mussolini in Italy in 1922, and Hitler in Germany in 1933. Some people today are asking, “Is Trump a fascist, and will he bring fascism to the US?” While Trump’s actions aren’t nearly as brutal as Hitler’s and Mussolini’s in the president’s early days in power, it’s still too early to tell. But Trump’s statements and actions have alarmed people from all walks of life. And history has shown that a country can turn to the right very quickly.

Millions of people are protesting Trump’s ascension to power, beginning with the powerful Women’s Marches the day after Trump assumed office. Street demonstrations, rallies, mass Congressional phone calls and town hall meetings, and much more have continued since. Discussions abound regarding how best to build this resistance movement. While we can learn from many sources, the success of the United Front and Popular Front strategies of the 1930’s and beyond provide important lessons for us today.

The United Front and Popular Front strategy was developed by Georgi Dimitrov, leader of the Bulgarian Communist Party and a leader of the Communist International. Dimitrov presented his strategy at the Seventh Congress of the Communist International in 1935. He said that all working-class and socialist organizations should work together in a United Front to defend their interests, and to resist and fight to defeat and overthrow fascism. He then said this United Front should also promote the creation of a broader, Popular Front, that would be comprised of the forces in the United Front but would reach out to all other sectors of society that are against fascism, including capitalists who opposed it. Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy were arresting and killing targeted groups in their own countries, and invading foreign lands, waging war, and taking over other governments. They were rolling over traditional defense forces with lightening speed and power, some of whom simply surrendered in the face of vastly superior military power. Fear spread across Europe and beyond. This dire state of affairs led the Communists to develop a better, more comprehensive strategy for fighting and defeating fascism.

Fascism and the Crisis of Capitalism

Dimitrov described the roots and rise of fascism as a logical response, from the point of view of capitalists, to resolve the severe internal contradictions and crises within capitalism, reverse its falling rate of profit, and save the capitalist system from growing turmoil, chaos and threat of collapse or overthrow. The solution was to merge the most reactionary sectors of monopoly and finance capital with strong right-wing political and military forces. The goal was to stop capitalism from hemorrhaging assets and end all threats to its power and rule. It’s chief method was to cripple democratic institutions and working-class organizations such as unions that the working-class and the people as a whole had used to wrest concessions from capital in the past, which cut into capitalist’s profits. The result of imposing fascism was the further enrichment of select corporations and political groups, and their dictatorial control of the government, the economy, and the major institutions of society.

Today in the US we see the merger of right-wing political and corporate forces at the highest level of government, in the persons of billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump in the president’s office, with former CEO of Exxon Mobil Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, General James “Mad Dog” Mattis as head of the Department of Defense, combined with extreme right-wing, neo-fascist media white supremacist and former Goldman Sachs banking executive Steve Bannon as Trump’s chief strategist and advisor, to name just four. While capitalism is not on the verge of collapse, it is wrought with growing internal contradictions and crisis that the ruling capitalist class finds increasingly difficult to resolve. Fascism is an attempt at a solution to this economic crisis.

This merger of corporate and extreme right-wing power are key elements in the construction of fascism. No one can predict whether the group around Trump will try to impose a fascist regime, or not. Nor can anyone answer the question, if the Trumpists move more decisively toward fascism will it be similar to Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy? If it happens, there could be features of Nazi Germany, or some other fascist or right-wing country, or develop its own unique forms of right-wing control. A major motivator for a greater turn to the right could be another major economic crisis. While there are some similarities between Trump’s group, and Hitler’s and Mussolini’s groups, there are also differences that should be recognized. It is not ordained that fascism will come to America. Much depends upon the size and scope and direction of the anti-Trump, anti-fascist resistance movement. There are good historical examples of mass movements that stopped fascism. One country that succeeded in the early 1940’s was Norway. Other countries overthrew fascist regimes and established socialism. There are enough warning signs within the Trump movement to cause concern, and impel us to plan for a sharper turn to the right.

Popular Front: Alliance of Necessity

Unfortunately, the leaders and major political forces in most European countries in the 1920’s and 1930’s, for the most part, weren’t prepared for the rise of Hitler and Mussolini, nor other right-wing dictators in other countries. Divisions and sectarianism on the left and within the ruling classes of many countries existed, as well as among other sectors of society, and there was an under-estimation of just how serious the threat was until it was too late. Much horror, suffering and the deaths of tens of millions resulted.

In 1939, the United Kingdom and France and other smaller states joined forces to fight Nazi Germany, Italy and Japan. France succumbed, but a left-led resistance organized a French underground anti-fascist movement. The Soviet Union joined the fight against the Nazi’s in June of 1941 after Germany invaded the USSR, and the USA joined in December 1941 after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Out of necessity the UK and the USA and smaller capitalist countries recognized that they had to ally with every country opposed to fascism, and that included the socialist Soviet Union. They put aside their anti-communism temporarily and joined forces, creating a Popular Front against fascism, exactly the kind of broad coalition the Communists had first proposed in 1935. The UK, USA and other capitalist countries also saw the necessity of creating a broad Popular Front domestically as well to mobilize and unite all forces in every society to build the greatest power possible to defeat fascism. Communists, socialists, and trade unionists worked together with major capitalists, including joining the military in capitalist countries to fight fascism. This strategy, and this strategy alone, was responsible for defeating fascism. Dimitrov’s strategy was published as a book, For a United and Popular Front. A similar broad front is emerging in the US in the resistance to Trump today, which is exactly what is needed.

Some on the left opposed the Popular Front strategy, believing that it meant selling out to capitalism and the corporate billionaires. When Dimitrov proposed his strategy to defeat fascism he did not intend that the working-class, the unions and the left give up their views, nor their independent organizations. Nor did the capitalists give up their support for capitalism. The Popular Front was a necessary temporary multi-class alliance to amass enough power to achieve a common goal: the defeat of fascism. The left, and especially the Communist Parties in many countries, including the US, pursued this strategy since Dimitrov’s 1935 speech. They did broad outreach everywhere, and helped build industrial unions, fought Jim Crow racism, and contributed to the defeat of fascism. As a result, the Communist Party USA gained a wider acceptance in society, and grew from less than 10,000 members to 100,000 members over the course of ten years. These same principles brought victories to the labor movement in the 1930’s with the organizations of powerful unions, the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s, the anti-war movement during the war in Vietnam, the women’s movement, the LBGTQ movement, and more. The right always counter-attacked in an effort to stop progress or roll back gains that the people made. Too often history took two steps forward and one step back.

After fascism was defeated in 1945, the capitalist elite in the United States immediately turned against the left, domestically and internationally. In Greece, for example, the US capitalist class and their government supported the Greek capitalists and political right to crush a powerful Greek Communist-led movement for socialism. In the US, the US corporate elite and their right-wing allies launched a propaganda and action campaign to malign the Communists, socialists and other progressives by launching an anti-communist crusade that painted anyone left of center as a Communist. This right-wing movement purged Communists, socialists, progressives and strong-willed principled liberals from their unions, teaching jobs, from Hollywood and many other sectors of society. This was a part of capitalism’s overall ramping up of the Cold War to oppose leftism everywhere in the world. The attack was so ruthless that it wounded the left nearly everywhere. In the US even the broad liberal mainstream of society, most of whom supported capitalism, was retaliated against and weakened. Liberalism, in the eyes of this conservative ruling capitalist bloc, opened up society to a discussion of different ideas and different views, including leftist views. This was seen as a threat to their singular, right-wing philosophy and control of the world as they wanted to shape it. But even the most repressive conditions were successfully resisted. Fascist Italy was one such place.

Togliatti and Underground Organizing

Palmiro Togliatti, leader of the Italian Communist Party, developed a strategy to deal with extremely repressive conditions. He deepened the strategy to fight fascism inside Italy where unions were banned, democracy crushed, and repression ran rampant. Togliatti told Communist Party workers in a series of secret lectures conducted underground that they had to go where ever workers went. There were popular local clubs where workers went after work to drink beer and wine and socialize. The Fascist Party had come into many of these clubs, gave speeches, and put their fascist emblem on the door. Many Communist and other progressive workers stayed away, repelled by the fascist emblem and speeches inside. But Togliatti told the Communist workers that they had to go inside and socialize with the workers. Not everyone at these clubs agreed with the fascist program, Togliatti explained. Listen to what people talked about, how they reacted to news reports about Fascist activities, or Resistance activities, he told them. When a worker questioned a Fascist act, even quietly, sit with him and become friends. Listen and contribute to the conversation, helping the worker see other negative things about the regime that he may not have noticed. Help him make connections, advance his political consciousness, and when the time was right, agree to meet outside the club, privately for more in depth discussions. Eventually this led to recruitment into Resistance activities. Because the Communists adopted this method of work, after Mussolini was captured and executed and the Fascist government overthrown, the Communist Party came out of the underground as one of the strongest political parties in the country. Their reputation in building the resistance was very high, and they got elected to political offices in cities and towns across Italy in the post war period. Togliatti’s work was published in a book, Lectures on Fascism.

Bernie Sanders was Correct: Stop Trump

While we don’t have fascism in the United States as we go to press, there are lessons to be learned from these historical examples. When Bernie Sanders did not win the Democratic Party nomination, he endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. A number of Bernie supporters were angry and upset, and some felt betrayed. Others, including this Bernie supporter, argued that Bernie was correct by urging people to vote for Hillary, if only because Trump was much worse. Taking such a position does not mean that one supports everything Hillary stands for, such as her close ties to Wall Street and support for neo-liberalism, the fear that she may be too quick to go to war on inaccurate information and faulty arguments. The reality is that Trump is a part of the billionaire class, as Bernie called them, and his history and campaign abuses spelled a sharp turn to the right, and his policies would be harmful to many people on nearly every issue. Hillary, on the other hand, would have worked for some positive programs, based on her past, such as her history of helping children, and support for many social programs. While Trump isn’t a full-blown fascist as of this writing, the anti-fascist strategies of the 1930’s and 1940’s can guide us today, especially in building the largest possible front against the Trump-Pence-GOP-rightwing-corporate alliance.

Fortunately, the anti-Trump Resistance is pursuing this path today, reaching out to the broadest political forces if they oppose Trump even on one issue. Our Resistance movement is winning important victories: stopping of Trump’s ban on Muslim’s entering the country, the defeat of Trump’s and House Speaker Paul Ryan’s effort to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, Labor’s victory in stopping anti-labor Andrew Puzder from becoming secretary of the Labor Department, failure to force Mexico to pay for Trump’s counter-productive wall, and more. These victories came about because huge coalitions of people from all walks of life and all social classes came together to accomplish a common goal. These efforts parallel the victorious campaigns against the right and fascism 60 years ago. The lesson for today is clear: Unite the many to defeat the Trump cabal, while building the movement that can usher in an era of peace, equality, economic security, and justice for all.

Paul Krehbiel is a long-time trade union activist, former president of United Union Representatives of Los Angeles, a coordinator of Los Angeles Labor for Bernie, and is Co-chair of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism.

CCDS Dialogue About the 2016 Election: What Happened and Where Do We Go From Here

Posted by CarlDavidson on November 22, 2016 under Elections, Organizing, Rightwing, Strategy | Read the First Comment

 

Four Articles Inviting Comments

CCDS members, along with the left and progressives generally, have been engaged in discussions about the recent presidential election and what it means for our political work for the next several years. The essays below are initial offerings in what should be an ongoing discussion. Please send us your writings about the election and how you see the future of the left and the progressive majority.

1. Sanders, Clinton and Trump – the Political Crisis of Neoliberalism

By Randy Shannon, National Coordinating Committee, CCDS,

Report to National Executive Committee of CCDS on the 2016 Election

November 16, 2106

(This report was fashioned to meet a ten minute spoken delivery limit.)

A New York Times analysis showed that the majority of voters whose income was less than $50k voted for Hillary Clinton. The majority of voters whose income was over $50K voted for Donald Trump. The electorate is defined as the body of persons entitled to vote in an election. 75% of the electorate gave up hope of changing the austerity regime of neoliberalism. They either did not vote for Clinton or refused to vote. Consent of the governed to the Wall Street leadership of the hegemonic bloc of capital – despite a $1 billion campaign war chest – has withered.

The Trump alternative was so repugnant that only 25% of the electorate voted for him. Thus there is an electoral mandate to reverse or reject the policy of neoliberal austerity; but there is not an electoral mandate to enact the far right policies identified with the racist obstructionist Republican Congress. This mandate was expressed in the Democratic primary vote for Sanders whose social democratic program and candidacy were nevertheless anathema to the hegemonic bloc of Wall Street banks.

The rejection of the austerity regime was also expressed in the success of all ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage. Some voter polls confirm this trend: 49% of voters cited “change” as the most important reason for their vote; of these, 85% voted for Trump. In MI and PA 50% said trade deals cost jobs; 60% of these voted for Trump.

The 2008 crash of the banks’ housing bubble accelerated the economy down the path of a deflationary crisis. Under Pres. Obama the central bank has managed the crisis for the oligarchs by using extraordinary monetary easing with zero interest and creation of money to prop up the Wall Street banks. Since 2008 the Fed Funds rate was slashed from 5.5% to 0% and the Fed’s balance sheet expanded from $870 billion in 2007 to over $4.5 trillion in 2014.

December 2015 saw the peak of the weak Fed induced economic recovery. For workers, most of whom never benefited from the recovery, the pace of economic decline has accelerated. On November 16th the NY Fed, in its monthly Empire Report, stated “employment counts and hours worked continued to decline.” A similar report of economic contraction was released by the Philadelphia Fed on November 17th. The current austerity regime offers low wage and unemployed workers no prospects, thus the Fight for $15 movement. More importantly those still employed are experiencing the slow motion economic implosion of the last 8 years.

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The Audacity to Win: A Call for Strategy for the US Left

Posted by admin on June 11, 2015 under Socialism, Strategy | Be the First to Comment

By Left Strategy Collective Members

May 30, 2015 – There is something bubbling beneath the surface in the US. Everyone can feel it. Everywhere there are mass actions – on issues ranging from fast food workers’ rights, to deportations, from the latest police killing, to community displacement, from defending collective bargaining, to getting clean water, from getting the water turned back on, to ending the occupation of Gaza.

There is something bubbling, but the question remains whether it will evaporate into steam or explode like a volcano. Capitalism confronts people all over the world, including the US, and its crises implicate the very survival of humankind. Yes, there are sprinkled victories, hopeful uprisings, and electoral surprises, but we know in our hearts it is not enough.

We go to sleep with the question, "When and how?" When and how will the tables turn? When and how will we become a force in US politics and win power? When and how are we going to be able to change the nature of the field we are forced to play on? In order to address these questions, we need a strategy for the left. We will refer to "the left" here as those forces that oppose the capitalist, white supremacist, hetero-patriarchal system and seek to build an alternative society.

In this paper, we will make the case for the importance of strategy, we will lay out our definition of strategy and the components we believe are necessary for the building a game- changing strategy for the left. We would like to see the development and implementation of a strategy for power –where the oppressed are able to determine their own livelihood and how society functions. This strategy would necessarily be aimed at an emancipatory transition from capitalism.

This paper will not be the strategy. It is a contribution to the many left voices that are calling for the need for strategy, and to begin to build a shared language of what strategy is. We are a small core of leftists from different sectors of the movement. We do not believe that we alone can build this strategy. However we have some thoughts about what is to be done and we have a commitment to building the space to develop this strategy with like-minded leftists. Our hope is that the process of engaging in this level of strategy development will promote a new movement culture of more intentional, collective, and focused movement development that will bring us to game-changing victories and power that will transform this country.

WHAT IS STRATEGY?

The act of developing strategy should result in more than a political line, a political program, or a new organization. It will not be enough to have a clever slogan. It will not be enough to focus on a single task, tactic, or campaign. The type of strategy that is necessary to build among leftists would: 1) imagine and formulate a vision of an alternative to capitalism; 2) analyze the current conditions both on our side (the working class, organized forces, and the left overall) as well as the opposition (the ruling class and the capitalist state); and 3) work toward that vision through devising a continually evolving program that would strengthen the forces for liberation and weaken the capitalist forces on an economic, political, and ideological scale to the point of "putting it out of business" all together.

Tactics are different from strategy. Tactics are the specific types of actions we take to execute our strategy. The series of actions may make up a particular program, but they are not the entirety of our strategy. The strategy will determine plans, to be put into action, evaluated and summed-up. It will not be based on what worked in one city and then applied to a different city with completely different conditions. It will not be based on our personal moods, whims, or the flavor of the month. It will not be a mere goal with no way to achieve it. Goals are the aims that our strategy is built around. It will be a comprehensive approach that includes our analysis of conditions, our hypothesis of how we will build power and win. This strategy becomes a living course of action that is implemented, tested, summed-up, evaluated, and reworked. (Continued)

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Discussion: How Socialists Should Support the Sanders Campaign

Posted by admin on May 31, 2015 under Elections, Left Unity, Socialism, Strategy | Be the First to Comment

By Jim Skillman

CCDS Atlanta

Among the various socialist organizations and unaffiliated independent socialists, there are two distinct camps regarding Bernie Sanders’ candidacy: those who will try to support it, and those who won’t. As a socialist who sees the value of his campaign on many different levels, I intend to play an active role in raising money, turning out support and urging people to vote for him. At the same time, I realize there is nothing I could write or say that would change anyone’s mind in the other camp, so I will avoid the pointless arguments and discussions around this topic, and leave it to others who wish to pursue those engagements.

That said, I believe there is a right way and a wrong way for socialists to take on this work, and I’d like to warn against us falling into either of these traps. As I see it, there are two dangers we should avoid.

First danger: campaigning in a way that does not build an independent group or grassroots network that will survive the primaries or the election. We saw this happen here around the Obama campaign even as early as 2008. Many of us did canvassing, raised and contributed money along with all the other activities. After the election was over, no real organization survived, and even the local official Democratic Party organizations were left in a weakened state. Even the Obama for America groups, which were controlled from the top down, petered out after a few weeks, and we were left with nothing. Let’s not miss this opportunity in 2016!

This mistake can be avoided if we make creating a grassroots network and/or organization, one that is completely independent of the Democratic Party hierarchy, the driver of the “Sanders for President” work we undertake here. This is why in many places CCDS people will be supporting the Sanders campaign though our work in Progressive Democrats of America, a federal PAC that is not controlled by the Democratic Party establishment. We could do the same here, but even if we don’t work through PDA, we should endeavor to set up an independent group that will survive into the future.

Second danger: campaigning in a narrow way, one that equates Sanders’ platform with democratic socialism. Although Sanders has previously described himself as a democratic socialist, we must keep in mind that he is not running as a socialist in this campaign, and his platform, as great as it is, isn’t socialist, democratic or otherwise. Sanders is NOT running a socialist campaign, and to conflate his platform with socialism is wrong on two counts: 1) it distorts what socialism actually is, and 2) it will alienate many who otherwise would find much to support in his platform but have negative ideas about socialism. Nowhere on his website or in any of his material will you even find the word “socialism”.

Of course, as the campaign gathers steam, there will be plenty of opportunities to educate and recruit people to our various socialist organizations (DSA, CPUSA, CCDS). But this can’t be the only or even the main focus. If we truly leverage our resources to carry out this work and avoid the traps mentioned, we will end up with both a stronger united front and a growing socialist movement.

Socialists, the 2014 Midterm Elections and Beyond: The Dialectic between Social Movements and Electoral Politics

Posted by admin on October 17, 2014 under Elections, Obama, Organizing, Strategy | Be the First to Comment

Voters lining up in Long Beach, NY

By Joseph M. Schwartz

Democratic Socialists of America

Throughout modern history, the property-less, women, people of color, and undocumented immigrants have fought and died for the right to vote. People understand that those who hold state power shape everyone’s lives through legislation and the administration of the law.

Democratic social movements, however, have never solely relied upon their electoral numbers to bring about social reform; they have also protested against and disrupted the dominant rules of the game in order to redistribute power and resources. Social change has come most rapidly when people believed the state may be responsive to their needs; the militancy of the 1930s and 1960s arose when, first, trade unionists and, later, civil rights militants protested because the nominally liberal governments they helped elect were not fully responsive.

A 40-year corporate offensive against the gains of the 1960s has rolled back some of these gains, particularly in regards to reproductive justice – such as abortion access — and income support for single mothers with infants. But even this offensive needed democratic numbers; the corporate-funded, think-tank propaganda of Tea Party politicians worked to deflect the anger of white middle and working-class voters away from the oligarchs and towards people of color, feminists, LGBTQ people, immigrants, and the poor.

On the other hand, the gains in human rights experienced by the LGBTQ community illustrates how social mobilization can lead to democratic change even in a conservative era. Thus, the complex interaction between social movements and electoral politics is a permanent fixture of capitalist democracies.

Why State and Local Electoral Politics Matters

The provision of public goods (from roads to schools to Medicaid, to welfare–now called TANF–and unemployment benefits) are differentially determined by 50 separate state governments and thousands of county and municipal governments. The outcome of the 2014 state and congressional elections will, in part, determine who gets or does not get food stamps, housing assistance, Medicaid, or increased funding for public education. Thus, non-presidential “off year” elections impact the lives of working and poor people as profoundly as do more visible presidential races. If progressives could turn out their base in off-year elections as well as they do in presidential years, local and state legislatures and Congress would be far more progressive.

The failure of the Obama administration to challenge Republican control of Congress over the past two years means it has few progressive themes to deploy to mobilize its black, Latino, and trade union base, although unyielding Republican attacks on reproductive rights may energize the Democrats’ strong base among single women. On the other hand, Democrats may have particular problems mobilizing the Latino community, as the administration recently postponed executive action to expand the rights of “Dreamers” (undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as minors) out of fear of alienating swing white voters.

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Reflections on the Passing of Comrade General Vo Nguyen Giap – Great Hero of Humanity

Posted by admin on October 10, 2013 under Antiwar, Strategy, Vietnam | Be the First to Comment

By Merle Ratner

I am very saddened at the passing of General Vo Nguyen Giap on Friday! Bac Giap, as he is called as a term of great affection, dedicated his entire life to achieving the national liberation and independence of Vietnam. He led the victory of the Vietnamese people against French colonialism and U.S. imperialism, making Vietnam the first country to achieve decisive victories over colonial and imperialist powers.  Bac Giap and President Ho Chi Minh together led the movement for national liberation and socialism which made these victories possible.  Developing Marxism Leninism creatively and applying it to the particular conditions of Vietnam, they were able to meld the demands for national independence and ending feudalism and oppression into a powerful and all-sided people’s struggle.

Bac Giap developed a theory and practice of people’s war — an integrated strategy of military, political and diplomatic mobilization of the entire Vietnamese people.  This unique comprehensive approach maximized the agency of the Vietnamese masses in achieving their own liberation, mobilizing their grass roots initiative.  Some bourgeois press obituaries of General Giap have claimed that he was “ruthless,” willing to lose millions of people to win Vietnam’s independence. Those who write this clearly do not understand Bac Giap or the Vietnamese people! The French colonialists and U.S. imperialists’ scorched earth war against the Vietnamese made the fight for liberation burn in the heart of the people, who were willing to make incredible sacrifices to achieve their liberation. Bac Giap successfully led this movement with great love and respect for those he commanded and his love has been reciprocated.  The massive outpouring of people, including many youth, this weekend in the streets of Vietnam to honor Bac Giap underscores how beloved he is in Vietnam, as he is around the world.

After liberation, Bac Giap continued to fight for the development of people’s power and socialism, particularly focusing on the empowerment and advancement of the majority of the population — the peasant community.  He has been a consistent voice criticizing corruption and opportunism and advocating for environmentalism.  Around the world Bac Giap embodied proletarian internationalism as an inspiration to people struggling for independence, equality and justice

In an interview he gave in 1999 with PBS, Bac Giap summed up some of the lessons which the world has drawn from his life of service to humanity, There is a limit to power. I think the Americans and great superpowers would do well to remember that while their power may be great, it is inevitably limited…. Since the beginning of time, whether in a socialist or a capitalist country, the things you do in the interests of the people stand you in good stead, while those which go against the interest of the people will eventually turn against you. History bears out what I say.

I met Bac Giap and his wife and comrade, Dang Bich Ha, several times over a number of years from the 90’s to 2005.  The first time, I was immediately struck by his kindness and his humility. As I shook his hand, somewhat awestruck, he waved his hand and stopped me when I started to say how honored I was to meet him, He said that he had come to hear my thoughts, and the thoughts of our movement, about the situation in Vietnam and the U.S.  He asked me to tell him about the communist and left and anti-war movements in the United States, about how people here viewed Vietnam and about what we thought of the current situation of the Vietnamese revolution.  He was particularly interested in how young people in the U.S. understood the situation in Vietnam and the about basis for long term friendship and solidarity.

Bac Giap told me that about his research and investigation into the living conditions of the peasants, land use issues and his desire to ensure that they were able to improve their lives and prosper as Vietnam developed.  He expressed concern for Vietnam’s workers, saying that in a socialist country, particularly in this stage of development, policies must focus on the well-being of the majority- the workers and peasants.

In a later meeting, we spoke about socialism and about the challenges of political education of youth.  Bac Giap was always hopeful, even when acknowledging the contradictions that development brings.

I was also privileged to spend some additional time with his wife, Dang Bich Ha. Bac Ha is a strong revolutionary woman who took part in all the discussions and raised many questions about the communist movement in the U.S.  Bac Giap and Bac Ha’s relationship impressed me as an expression of the Vietnamese revolution’s emphasis on the equality of women from the earliest days.  It struck me as a marriage of love, equality and respect, with common beliefs as well as lively discussions and even some disagreements!

In my final meeting, General Giap spoke mainly of his activities in the revolution against the French and his work together with President Ho Chi Minh.  At that time, he was resting in Do Son at a very modest Army house.  His body was becoming frail, but he still managed to climb a flight of stairs to meet with a large group of soldiers who had come to visit bearing flowers and great enthusiasm. With the young soldiers Bac Giap radiated energy and warmth, making everyone feel comfortable.  I will always remember Bac Giap, Bac Ha at his side, among that group of young men and women with their eyes shining!

Merle Ratner, former member of the CCDS national coordinating committee, was instrumental in organizing the two CCDS study tours to Vietnam and contributed to the CCDS pamphlet "Vietnam: From National Liberation to 21st Century Socialism." She is a Co-coordinator of the US-based Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign and coordinated an international workshop on Marxist Theory and Practice in the World Today at the Ho Chi Minh Academy in Vietnam. She also has two articles on Vietnam today in the new CCDS book, Vietnam: From National Liberation to 21st Century Socialism

Solidarity Economy and South Africa’s ‘Red October’ Campaign

Posted by admin on October 3, 2011 under Labor, Neoliberalism, Organizing, Socialism, Solidarity Economy, Strategy | Be the First to Comment

Speech by SACP General Secretary Cde Blade Nzimande at the Launch of the Red October Campaign, October 2 2011:

Together Let Us Build Working

Class Power in our Communities:

The 2011 Launch of the

SACP Red October Campaign

We are in that time of the year when the SACP launches its popular Red October Campaign. Our Red October Campaign is inspired and seeks to take forward the spirit and the victories of the Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917 in Russia – ushering in the first workers’ government in the 20th century.

The Red October campaign has been an important platform in building and strengthening the SACP over the last 11 years. Through our Red October Campaign we have built an SACP that is closer to the workers and the poor of our country. Through this campaign we say to the workers and the poor of our country, take up struggles to change your lives for the better and be the masters of your own destinies. It is only the workers and the poor themselves, in struggle and in solidarity with all other progressive forces that will consolidate and deepen our national democratic revolution, and advance the struggle for socialism in our country.

Through these campaigns we have also exposed the failures of the capitalist system to address the needs of the overwhelming majority of our people, and particularly also the failures of the neo-liberal macro-economic policies pursued since 1996. Our Red October Campaign has also been an important organising tool to recruit more and more members to the SACP. The Red October Campaign has also been an important platform for the ideological development of SACP members, and generally to conscientise and mobilise the workers and the poor to be the makers of their own history.

Since its launch twelve years ago, the Red October Campaign has been an important campaigning platform led by the SACP, and has notched some important victories, including:

a. the roll out of banking services to the poor via Umzansi account

b. the transformation of the financial sector as a whole

c. The passage of the Co-operatives and Co-operative Banks legislation

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Discussion Article: Call For An Anti-Fascist Movement – Before It’s Too Late

Posted by admin on September 12, 2011 under Elections, Racism, Rightwing, Strategy | Read the First Comment

By Rafael Pizarro

In the past, when I’d been politically active helping to elect Democrats and for social justice and equality, I used to take exception to the word “fascism” being thrown around, even with reference to the worst conservatives. I thought that people would stop listening to us in the movement if we sounded like alarmists. I also thought that in order to have an effective strategy, you needed to be precise in your understandings of the times and your opposition. I was sometimes ridiculed and called a “sell-out” because of this position, but I stood firm because the stakes were too high to waffle on this.

But times have changed. If you read the American Heritage dictionary definition of fascism, you’ll see that it was a movement created by Mussolini whose ideology was ultra-nationalist, and anti-socialist. That definition almost perfectly describes the Tea Party. I say almost because it’s even worse. Now that socialism has been killed as a legitimate vision in this country, it’s progressivism, liberalism and often democracy itself that’s in the sights of extreme right-wingers. Yet, so far, the Tea Party and its fellow travelers have been effective politically and have managed to disarm their critics by capturing the media.

I say it’s time to stop this dangerous trend in American politics. Those who seek to limit voting rights to the poor, students and any group that would counter them at the ballot box (both through legislation and trickery); those who insist that the problem with our economy is that the poorest portion of it doesn’t pay taxes (which just isn’t true); those who strenuously fight even modest increases in the taxes paid by the richest 2% of our country – despite the fact that their taxes have declined steadily for the past fifty years; those who believe that our system of government must be based on the precepts of one particular religious view; those who brand anyone who opposes their policies traitors who have no right to a voice in democratic debates; those who continue to support the policy of handing over all functions of government – even the basic function of national security – to private businesses that have no public oversight; those who blame our problems on immigrants – just as earlier fascist movements scapegoated Jews, Gypsies, gays and other “outsiders; those who say that the answer is to hand over any remaining government functions to local and state control – just as the South did over the issue of slavery; those who steadily chop away at the rights of Americans to seek union representation; those who brand gay and transgender citizens as sub-human and those who’ve made racism and sexism acceptable – these people undermine our nation’s greatest principles of equality, democracy, tolerance and compassion. When will we do something about that? And what must we do?

There are very smart and well-meaning leaders who would have us focus on the ballot box and legislative processes to stop these dangerous people. But they have been ineffective. They complain that the Tea Party and other groupings of ultra-conservatives capture the public debate and influence government not in spite of their positions, but by making their positions so outrageous, their actions in support of these so provocative that the media can’t ignore them and, in fact, give them greater exposure than their opponents. But these smart and well-meaning leaders do little to counter that.

So what do I propose? Not armed revolution. Not thugs who attack those they disagree with. Not a secret, underground movement. I simply propose that we use the weapons ultra-conservatives have used so effectively.

I’d like to see a coalition of the left and of the sensible. I believe it’s time to create an Anti-Fascist Front. What would such a coalition do? Move past the positions and grand visions of government that divide us and use our collective strength to return our sensible political positions – i.e. expanded, not limited voting rights, progressive taxation, the right to collective bargaining, religious tolerance and compassion, to name but a few we can all agree on – to the public discourse. We don’t do that enough to be effective. When progressives and trade unionists call for a civil rights rally in Washington, liberals don’t come. When liberals call for a political stunt to highlight their opposition to current trends in politics, trade unionists don’t come. We need to work together.

This has been said before and the obstacles have always overtaken our goals. But the crisis is more urgent that usual. We have to insert our broad and sensible positions into the public discourse, i.e., the media, before the ultra-right capture more and more of it.

The Tea Party uses stunts and outrageous statements to get its message across, why can’t we? Certainly we can think of ways to capture the media’s attention just as they can. I won’t discuss particular tactics here as they will immediately be ridiculed. I’ll just say that it’s possible to use social media, flash-mobs, rallies at legislator’s offices, etc. as effectively as ultra-conservatives do. Michael Moore is an excellent example of someone who knows how to do this effectively. But he’s only one person and we’ve allowed him to be marginalized as part of the “loony left.”

The first step is to start talking about it, to agree to work together to get our voices heard – by (almost) any means necessary. We won’t concede the moral high ground; we won’t intimidate the way they do. But we’ll insist that our voices be heard by using the most effective tactics to do so, even if they may appear silly or even outrageous to some onlookers. We won’t run screaming into the arms of the opposition when they label something “socialist” or “communist” or “one-world.” In fact, by publicly embracing the rights of citizens to have these ideas, just as the ultra-right has a right, so essential to democracy, to espouse their ideas, we’ll certainly get the media attention we deserve. The Tea Party does silly and outrageous things in support of their reactionary politics. People laugh or look down their noses at them – just as they did at Hitler and the Nazis before it was too late – but they do it anyway, knowing that they will, in any event, get their voices heard and their positions out there. It’s time we turn their own weapons against them.

Who will join me? Who will stand up to the rise of fascism and its ideological fellow travelers and defenders? Who will simply acknowledge that we need an anti-fascist movement now if we’re to rescue our country and our citizens from a ruthless mob funded by the super-rich towards anti-democratic ends? At long last, who will stand up for decency, democracy, compassion and an economy that doesn’t impoverish the vast majority of Americans?

Rafael Pizarro, a New England based trade union organizer, was a founder and early co-chair of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism

Taking Stock of a Potential Insurgency

Posted by admin on July 21, 2011 under Elections, Organizing, Strategy | Be the First to Comment

Some Reports  From CCDSers Attending The ‘Rebuild the Dream’ House Meetings on July 16-17 Initiated by Van Jones and MoveOn.org

Lincoln Park, Chicago: Ted Pearson. 

The biggest problem was that it was almost all white and all senior citizens.  I’m sure this does not reflect the racial and age composition of the MoveOn email list in my neighborhood, so I don’t know how to account for it.  All of the people who were there except for me and one other person unaffiliated with any other group.  All had worked for Obama in 2008.  

There was great frustration but also a recognition that the right wing is the main enemy.  The point on making Social Security solvent was debated a little – some (myself) do not accept the notion that it is insolvent, although I think we support the call for increasing or eliminating the cap on income subject to FICA.

There was also no discussion of the Dream conference Oct. 3-5 except that I raised it.  Everyone agreed that it would be important but no one expressed interest in going.  

I introduced myself as being from Lincoln Park Neighbors for Peace and Justice (there were two of us there), CAARPR, and CCDS.  I brought copies of the Democracy Charter, only one of which was picked up.  The format did not really allow for discussing it.  I seemed to be the only “activist” at the meeting. 

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Discussion on Obama and 2012

Posted by admin on May 13, 2011 under Elections, Obama, Strategy | 10 Comments to Read

Debating Bill Fletcher’s

‘How Do We Respond to Obama?’

And Others Matters on the 2012 Election

The following article by Jonathan Nack, replying to Bill Fletcher on Black Commentator, inspired a thread of debate on the CCDS list server. It is between reposted here for further discussion. If you want to make a comment, just register on the site. Flectcher’s original article follows Nack’s below.

We Need Radicals Not Reformists

By Jonathan Nack

Black Commentator

May 5, 2011 – It’s nice to see Bill Fletcher start to wake up (see below). Unfortunately, IMHO, he’s still has a long way to go. Maybe he’s still groggy.

Fletcher’s main problem is, IMHO, that he’s no longer a radical, but a reformist. He demonstrates this by his rejection of more radical strategies without even considering them – the true hallmark of all reformists.

As has often been said, insanity is continuing to do the same thing, while expecting different results. Put another way, if progressives don’t think outside of the box, we will stay trapped in the box.

Fletcher’s strategy requires remaining within the political orbit of the Democratic Party. He ignores the alternative left parties, such as the Green Party, Socialist Party, and the California Peace & Freedom Party. In my view, it’s a strategy that is akin to trying to walk a great distance on only one leg and with no crutch. You might hop around a while, you might make a little progress, then again you might not, and eventually you will fail to get to where you want to go.

My argument is not that all progressives should jump to a left third party. …

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