For a Party with only a few thousand members and supporters, centered in about a dozen major cities, the Communist Party USA has a significant amount of influence.
This is achieved by infiltrating and controlling much larger groups, including several major labor unions, sections of the Democratic Party, some Black and “mainstream” churches, the health care and “peace” movements and even Obama’s “private army” Organizing for America!
Links to elected officials, including several members of Congress such as John Conyers in Michigan, Hilda Solis and Barbara Lee in California and Dennis Kucinich in Ohio are also carefully cultivated.
Dan Margolis has been chair of the New York State Communist Party USA. In addition he writes for the People’s World, covering local New York City and state issues, as well as events at the United Nations.
Margolis has been active in New York City elections, including as the mid-Staten Island coordinator for the 2004 Democratic Party Congressional campaign.
Below are excerpts from a discussion paper Margolis wrote for the National Convention of the Communist Party USA which is due to begin in New York this weekend. The paper gives several examples of Party influence in New York, which can be safely assumed to be typical Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit, Tuscon, St Louis, Boston, Seattle and other Party strongholds.
The main thing that the Communist Party can contribute, i.e. its main role, is in the field of strategy and tactics. It is entirely true, as the document noted, that anyone reading this would likely also be working on the fight for to support the health care plan that was put forward by Barack Obama, along with organizations like Organizing for America, HCAN, etc. But, because we have a background in the CPUSA and the YCL, we bring something different and special to this movement-a strategic concept of who the main players are, who the main enemies slowing down the process of change are, what is possible and so on.
Margolis notes that his local branch of Organizing for Obama, a claimed Party “friend” , was held together by Party comrades. He also calls on the party to fight for fully socialized health care;
When there were setbacks in the fight for health care, there was demoralization and frustration. Our Bronx club, which was instrumental in building an Organizing for America-based local organization, helped fight this feeling and, in the process, gained a good deal of experience. It can be said that, without the Communist Party, and solid leadership from one comrade in particular, the OFA group could have easily disbanded itself. Also, the Party was able and is able to play a leadership role in the question of what we’re fighting for, and in what context: why not some kind of National Health Service, as in the U.K., right now, or for Medicare for All? Why was even the watered-down Senate bill a victory? How do any of these victories contribute to the forward motion of the struggle overall?
Putting all those questions together is a key role of the Party and YCL, as it helps to build the unity and forward motion of the progressive forces.
Margolis goes onto talk about working with local unions and Black Churches to support the President’s jobs initiatives – which are mainly schemes to funnel taxpayers money into radical controlled organizations.;
Another example would be the upcoming jobs fight. We’ve said that this is the key struggle, and that puts us in agreement with all of the major players in the core forces. There is a national coalition in place for this battle, but how do we help build it? It is our job to help bring it to life, and to localize it, bring it to the grassroots. This is something different from place to place, and it takes a Communist Party to figure this out. In New York, we have a situation in which the Central Labor Council isn’t playing a leading role in the city’s labor movement. Most of the biggest unions in the city are outside the CLC. How do we bring them together in this fight? (And in so doing, how can we contribute to overall labor unity in this city?)
At the grassroots level, how do we pull organizations and people in our periphery into this coalition? In Brooklyn, we have to consider how we can bring the large Black churches into the fight. How can we utilize the organizational connections we have, the relationships with elected officials, to do so?
Not to forget the Communist Party’s primary tactical goal – defeating the “ultra right” (Republicans) through supporting their allies the Democrats, “as part of an overall strategy on the road towards socialism”.
On the electoral front, it would be good to have more of our own candidates running for office. But right now, this can’t be our main electoral contribution. We have to be part of the fight to defeat what’s left of the ultra right, and make sure they don’t make a comeback in the mid-term elections. Others on the left see these elections either as ends in themselves or deviations from the “real” struggle. But the Communist Party can exercise a leadership role by helping to show the importance of electing or defending Democrats as part of an overall strategy on the road towards socialism.
The Communists have a plan. they always have a plan. They see great opportunities under the leadership of new AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka ;
We do have a plan, so to speak, as to which industries are our main national priorities, as well as place to place. We in New York have a special emphasis on the teachers, transit workers, health care workers, the public workers: these are the most organized and decisive sections of the New York City working class.
Also, I would take issue with the discussion of who “the left” is. We can’t narrow it down simply to the 20 percent of the population that chose “socialism” on a single opinion poll that has, in my opinion, received way too much attention. We’ve seen the beginnings of a really new left: within the labor movement under Trumka, those who have come out for some form of health reform, the new jobs coalition, the movement of activists in Organizing for America, etc. These are the newly invigorated activists on the rising left with whom we want to be associated.
The Communists are masters of leverage, of covertly using their small numbers to achieve maximum impact in the political sphere.
The Communist Party USA is one of Obama’s most important allies. It’s impact should not be under-estimated.