Recognizing today’s reality, the Organizing Committee wrote that the convention: "comes in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Millions of working people have lost their jobs, their homes, their means of survival. Hunger and homelessness stalk the land. Desperation and anger are growing. Our convention must address this worsening humanitarian crisis."
The document continues: "The U.S. Senate must immediately pass the $174 billion ‘Jobs for Main Street’ bill already approved by the House, that extends unemployment compensation and creates new jobs. This can be won."
This juxtaposition of problem (the first quote) and proposed solution (the second quote) illustratesÂ a disconnect between the economic and systemic violence being perpetrated on the working class and the proposals that our Party is advancing in response.
Problem: "Hunger and homelessness stalk the land.Â Desperation and anger are growing." Response: "pass the $174 billion… bill. This can be won."
Intermediate, tactical, goals like passage of specific bills in Congress that aid the development of working class power or ameliorate some of the conditions under which we live and work are important.Â I support fighting for these intermediate goals.
However, our work can’t be hemmed in by a context of:
- Win what "can be won".
- Present an analysis that consciously supports the parameters that capital sets on the solution.
Why does the focus on what "can be won" bother me?Â We don’t know what "can be won" until a battle is over.
By fighting for what "can be won," we negotiate against ourselves. This was one of the mistakes that afflicted the health care debate. The relatively weak and reformist "public option" remains the left-mostÂ proposal.Â A nationalized health care system was not included in the discussion; HR676 was actively suppressed as an option.Â Our party historically called for nationalized health care because we knew the dangers of negotiating against ourselves and because it is the best solution. Instead of stating our party’s position, we tactically maintained support for steadily weaker proposals emerging from process and body (Congress) that is designed to mute the voice of working people.
To engage primarily in short term tactical struggles, to fight for what some consider realistically winnable today, hems us as a class into an electoral process that is substantially controlled by capitalist interests. Too many millionaires sit in the Congress while there are few fighting people’s or union activists.
One of the reasons I joined the Communist Party, looking back, was to break out of the bounds of capitalist solutions; to think systemically about needed change when viewed from the perspective of my class, working folks.Â Our Party would be strengthened in action and analysis by more strongly situating our short term tactical goals within the context of the ongoing strategic struggle for working class power and socialism.
Why does the document’s lack of a context of struggle for socialism bother me? Neglecting to advance concepts of class conscious struggle objectively strengthens capitalists.
When we say that passage of a bill will make a difference, even a $174 billion "jobs" bill, we also know that the systemic environment for workers remains substantially the same. The current jobs bill won’t produce the number of jobs needed to keep up with existing unemployment and those entering the work force.Â Even if enough jobs were created, the capitalist economic dynamics that require downward pressure on wages remain, continuing to undermine our ability as working people to meet even our most basic needs. These capitalist structural components undermine any wins workers extract without ongoing and class conscious struggle.
The use of the term "their jobs, their homes" in the "Call" rather than "our jobs, our homes" hints at a distance between the collective author and those who are losing jobs and homes. It is important to remember that what links our Party to the working class is not only our philosophy (Marxism), but our historic and present social base in our class; the demographics of our membership and the class interests we defend. Our members are losing our jobs, our homes, and are subject to all the other effects of the economic crises through which we’re struggling as a class. When we write with the implication of distance from the working class – using "they", "their", etc. – we are broadcasting a message of distance or disconnection that is likely unintended.
Is it helpful to say: "This past year of struggle for national health care reform proves that the ultra-right, bankrolled by Wall Street and the big corporations, will stop at nothing to filibuster meaningful change."
Are we saying that the ultra-right lead the fight against health care reform? If so, what compelled Wall Street and the big corporations, the organized structures of the capitalist class, to back the "ultra-right"?
Are we saying that Wall Street and the big corporations used the ultra-right as puppets in capitals battle to undermine systemic change to the health care industry that would challenge profits?
Which is it?
Capitalists used all the tools available to them, including the "ultra-right," to fight health care reform. The result: a bill providing huge bonanzas to the insurance industry and quieting the calls for reform by providing some limited benefit for working families.
Who are the "ultra-right"? If their money comes from capitalists, as outlined in the "Call," then they are puppets of capital. The "ultra-right" cannot in any realistic class analysis be assigned the primary blame for the mess that health care reform devolved into. Democrats and Republicans worked with determination against meaningful health care reform, as did many interested industry groups and corporate entities. The entire process was more effective at limiting reform than in achieving reform.
In effect, then, our Party provides an analysis that is patently, by our own words, political fiction disassociated from the complex reality that comprises the struggle for universal health care.
What can communists do today?Â Address systemic contradictions that perpetuate hunger and homelessness despite vast increases in wealth for the few. Point to the struggle for socialism as the necessary struggle against systemic contradictions and exploitation that, under capitalism, require the inhuman, murderous, conditions under which we labor and live, including joblessness to maintain a reserve force of unemployed to use against organizing efforts and to keep wages low and fear high.Â Fight racism and anti-immigrant ideology, and imperialism, used to split the working class.
What must communists do? Organize on the ground for working class power and socialism using work, community, electoral, and all other forms of concrete struggle. Fight for systemic change (socialism) while simultaneously pushing for intermediate reforms.
This multi-dimensioned, complex struggle is the challenge history places before us as communists.
Socialism is the only solution to systemic contradictions that underpin the social problems facing us as a class today, including saving the environment, which amounts to saving the human species.
Socialism or barbarism. Our class must choose, and soon.