Sam Webb was the National Chair of the Communist Party USA, 2000-2014.
From 1977 through 1988he was the state organizer of the Communist Party in Michigan. Earlier, he was active in the labor movement in his home state of Maine. Webb currently resides in New York City.
He is a public spokesperson for the CPUSA, and travels extensively in the U.S. and abroad, including recent trips to South Africa, China, Vietnam, and Cuba where he met with leaders of those countries.
Sam Webb graduated from St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia and received his MA in economics from the University of Connecticut.
Supported Communist Party call
CPUSA Organization Commission
As at March 1994, the following were members of the Organization Commission of the Communist Party USA: Sam Webb, chair; Pat Barile; Judith LeBlanc; Carole Marks; Elena Mora; Esther Moroze; and Joe Sims.
Communist Party's May Day Salute
In 1995 the Communist Party USA newspaper People's Weekly World, published a "May Day salute" to the "heroes in the class war zone". More than 100 unionists/activists endorsed the call, mostly known affiliates, or members of the Communist Party.
Endorsed Communist Party Call
On March 30 2002 the Communist Party USA paper People’s Weekly World called for a national holiday in honor of late Farm Workers Union leader Cesar Chavez. The article was followed by a long list of endorsersincluding Sam Webb Almost all endorsers were confirmed members of the Communist Party USA.
Visiting China and Vietnam
A Communist Party USA delegation to China and Vietnam returned to the United States on Dec. 12 2006, with a "wealth of political and cultural experiences they say they hope to share with the U.S. public in order to build better understanding and friendship between the peoples of the U.S., China and Vietnam."
The delegation, made up of National Chair Sam Webb, Executive Vice Chair Jarvis Tyner, International Secretary Pamella Saffer and Labor Secretary Scott Marshall, visited at the invitation of the Communist Parties of China and Vietnam.
In China, they were hosted by the CPCs international department and were able to meet with leaders of the All China Womens Federation, the All China Federation of Trade Unions including a leader of the now famous Wal-Mart union and other leaders, party members and everyday citizens.
The delegation then traveled on to Vietnam. While the CPUSA has sent people to Vietnamese party congresses, and Tyner himself had visited Vietnam in 1972 while bombs were falling, this was the first official CPUSA delegation to ever visit. They described it as a moving experience.
All of us were of the generation that had opposed the Vietnam War, Saffer said. Its astonishing, the progress that Vietnam has made. One of the things that was very clear to me, and very moving, was how they have always made a distinction between the government that dropped bombs and Agent Orange on their people, on the one hand, and the American people, on the other.
One of the challenges for Vietnam is how they are taking care of victims of Agent Orange, and their children, she said. These are disabled people. How do they fit them into society, to be contributing members of society? This is a challenge.
Saffer noted Vietnam's stunning progress since the war. It has been able, despite immense destruction wrought by the U.S. during the 1960s and 70s, to become one of the most economically dynamic nations in the world. In doing so, it has brought huge swaths of its population out of poverty and has plans to eradicate all poverty within a few decades.
Saffer and Webb both said that relations with between the CPUSA and the Chinese and Vietnamese parties had been further strengthened, and they look forward to building even stronger relations in the future.
On Obama "We are speaking to a friend."
Some extracts, with interpretative commentary from the New Zeal blog.
- If the election of Barack Obama was a monumental victory, election night itself was a magical moment. In Chicago and across the nation, tears of joy and exhilaration mingled with memories of how far we have come. As the President-elect greeted the hundreds of thousands of well wishers in Grant Park, it was hard not to think of the many struggles for freedom mapping our nation’s history...
- To say that a sea change occurred on Nov. 4 is no exaggeration. On one side, the arguably worst president in our history leaves Washington disgraced. His party’s policies, ideology and cultural symbols are discredited. The GOP is in disarray and the blame game has begun. The red/blue state paradigm and the southern strategy, a strategy conceived exactly forty years ago to divide the nation along racial lines, are in shambles. And the entire capitalist class, not only its most reactionary section, is weakened.
- On the other side of the changing sea, a sense of joy, catharsis and renewal is in the air. Expectations are high. A new era of progressive change is waiting to be set in motion. If the past eight years of the Bush administration seemed like a winter of discontent, Obama’s ascendancy to the presidency feels like a springtime of possibility...
New Zeal:Webb sees this as no temporary blip, but as the beginnings of a great shift to the left.
- No one, of course, expects that the securing of a better future will be easy. There is, after all, eight years of extreme right-wing misrule to clean up. The economic crisis is widening and deepening. Right-wing extremism, while badly weakened, still retains enough influence in Congress and elsewhere to block progressive measures. And class realities are still embedded in our society.
- Nevertheless, in electing Barack Obama and larger Democratic Party majorities in Congress, the American people have taken the first and absolutely necessary step in the direction of building a more just society. We are not on the threshold of socialism for sure, but it is easy to see the further congealing of a growing majority that will realign politics, not incrementally and momentarily, but decisively and enduringly in the direction of economic justice, equality and peace.
New Zeal:Not socialism yet, but the beginnings of a permanent shift in that direction.
- While we should look at the outcome of the elections objectively, I would argue that the biggest danger is to underestimate the political significance of what has happened. I am suspicious of advice that suggests that we temper our understandable joy and enthusiasm as if nothing of great importance has happened.
- The country is in a period of transition. A new potentially transformative president is entering the White House, along with increased Democratic majorities in Congress. Class consciousness is deeper and reaches into every section of the working class. A spirit of broad unity is palpable. The ideological environment is infused with progressive and egalitarian ideas. Labor and its allies are retrofitting their priorities, message and initiatives to the new political landscape. And millions are ready to energetically back the legislative agenda of the Obama administration...
- This favorable correlation of class and social forces couldn’t happen at a better time. The challenges facing the new administration are immense. Some are short term; others longer term; some are national in scope; others global. And all are begging for solution.
New Zeal:A leftist president and Congress, plus an international financial crisis and impending recession/depression. Will people will accept radical solutions during time of crises-even socialist solutions?
- Given the current situation, it is apparent that the Obama administration enters the White House with huge challenges. At the same time, no president in recent memory brings to the job so much popular good will, a Congress dominated by Democrats, an election mandate for progressive change, and an energized movement that supports him.
- As I said earlier, we are in a transitional period in which the broad contours and class relationships of U.S. politics have changed to the point that we have to adjust our strategic policy. Our policy of singling out the extreme right and its reactionary corporate backers and building the broadest unity against them, discussed in these meetings and contained in our Party program, captured the class realities of the past 30 years. In this year’s election we applied that policy consistently and creatively. Admittedly, we adjusted this policy at the tactical level in January of this year after concluding that Obama had the potential to bring together and give voice to an all-people’s coalition and win the election by a landslide.
- Looking back, it isn’t immodest to say that both our overall policy and our tactical adjustment were on the money. We shouldn’t claim bragging rights, but we can say that our strategic and tactical approach captured better than any other organization or movement on the left the political algebra of the election process, including the possibility of a landslide.
- This isn’t to say that other left movements and organizations were of no consequence, because they were, but none of them had as much political coherence in their strategic and tactical policies as we did. Nor did they do the day-to-day grassroots work with the same consistency that we did.
- That said, the new political landscape in the election’s wake compels us to make strategic as well as tactical changes. Our current strategic policy, I’m sure you will agree, no longer corresponds with the present situation...
- Now and for the foreseeable future, the country is in a political transition that interweaves elements of the past and the future. This argues against attempts to fit the political dynamics of this moment into a rigid and schematic strategic framework. Our strategic policy is a conceptual device (or guide to action) whose purpose is to give us a first approximation of what is happening on the ground among the main class and social forces, which of them has the upper hand, and what it will take to move the political process in a progressive direction. It doesn’t claim to capture reality in all of its complexity and contradictoriness. And this is especially so in a transitional period such as this one. Therefore, the strategic notion of stages of struggle has to be employed judiciously and flexibly, or, as some like to say, dialectically.
New Zeal:Webb warns his comrades that now is not the time to be doctrinaire. Now is the time dialectics, a flexible approach to a fast moving situation.
- So briefly, how do the various forces line up? Let’s begin with Obama. During the election we correctly resisted fitting Obama into a tightly sealed political category. We should continue that practice. I don’t think categorizing him as a bourgeois or centrist politician at this moment is very helpful, even if he begins by governing from the center.
- Obama is an unusual political figure. He has deep democratic sensibilities, a sense of history and modesty, and an almost intuitive feel for the national mood. His political and intellectual depth matches his eloquence. In the wake of the election, he is the leader of a far-flung multiclass “change” coalition that constitutes a new political universe to which everyone has to relate. He embraces a reform agenda in a reform era whose political character will be decided in the years ahead. Many, including ourselves, have used the words “transformational” or “transforming” to describe his candidacy — that is, a candidacy capable of assembling a broad people’s majority to reconfigure the terms and terrain of politics in this country in a fundamental way. The same can be said about the potential of his presidency.
- Obama isn’t finished with Obama. Like other great leaders, he is a work in progress who has demonstrated the capacity to grow as things change and new problems arise. He will undoubtedly feel competing pressures, but he will also leave his own political imprint on presidential decisions, much like Lincoln and Roosevelt did. It’s good that Obama has these qualities because he is inheriting mammoth problems. In consultation with the Democrats in Congress and the main organizations of the people’s coalition, he will set the agenda and determine the timing of legislative initiatives next year.
New Zeal:Keep your eye on the big picture comrades. Don't worry if Obama has to do some things you don't like. Its the broad changes we communists are after.
- However, let’s not go bananas when he appoints somebody whose politics we don’t like. We should not expect that this administration will be free of representatives of Wall Street or old line Democrats or even some Republicans. Their presence doesn’t necessarily define the political inclinations of the Obama administration, nor does it tell us exactly what its political priorities will be. Nothing would be worse at this moment than to force politics into fixed and frozen categories on the one hand and to ignore the new political dynamics and movements that emerged from the elections on the other. Let’s give Obama some space; millions of others will, including, I suspect, the main leaders of the labor and people’s movement. Marxism is a guide to action, not a dogma.
New ZealDon't be dogmatic comrades. Give the man a break. He'll have to do things we don't like to appease the mainstream. He's on the right track, give him a chance.
- Then there are the Obama grassroots networks and committees. These web-generated forms of organization and action were formidable in the elections and will in all likelihood continue to be a forceful presence in the coming years. They contain an array of diverse people, including lots of young people, all of whom are very loyal to Obama and will throw their weight behind his program. In some places we are part of “Yes We Can” networks and should remain so; where we aren’t, we (along with others) should make connections with them.
New Zeal:The Communist Party was active in Obama's campaign all over the US. Keep the networks going and expand communist presence into areas where currently weak.
- The Democratic Party, for sure, isn’t an anti-capitalist people’s party. Yet it contains a variety of currents. In the recent elections the center and progressive currents gained in size and influence. While its character isn’t left in its outlook in the wake of Obama’s landslide victory, liberal and progressive congress people have the wind at their back. Right-wing Democrats, meanwhile, are running into headwinds. This is not 1992 all over again.
New Zeal:The far left is now dominant in the Democratic Party. We won't let Obama slip out of our control like Clinton did.
- Sam Webb Then there are the broad people’s forces, and Communists are a current among these forces. These forces continue to evolve in positive ways. Unity is on a higher level. Their politics move along anti-corporate, egalitarian and anti-militarist lines. They express themselves through a range of organizational forms. In this election these forces walked with seven league boots, kicked butt and took no prisoners. Nothing seemed to knock them off stride.
- These loosely grouped forces will energetically participate in struggles in the period ahead. Labor will continue to play a special organizing and political role.
New Zeal: The communist controlled peace movement, mass organisations, pressure groups and unions are on a roll. Expect them to put huge pressure on the Obama administration in the years ahead.
- At the same time, labor and its allies, while vigorously advancing their own agenda, must adjust to the new scope of the post-election change coalition led by Obama that had emerged. Never before has a coalition with such breadth walked on the political stage of our country. It is far larger than the coalition that entered the election process a year ago; it is larger still than the coalition that came out of the Democratic Party convention in August.
- Moreover, its growth potential is enormous. Significant numbers of white workers and small businesspeople, for example, who didn’t cast their vote for Obama, can be won to progressive and anti-racist positions of struggle going forward.
New Zeal:The communist/socialist trade unions and their affiliates will be used to broaden the "peoples movement" behind Obama. They will aim to bring the conservative white working class back to the Democrats.
- As you can see, this change coalition contains various political forces with disparate class loyalties. There are no pure struggles at any stage of struggle. Indeed, in such a broad, multiclass coalition, relations will be contested as well as cooperative...
- As for us, we can provide leadership only to the degree that we are in the trenches of the wider labor-led people’s movement, building this people’s upsurge in all directions. Only if we are making practical, on-the-ground contributions to the immediate struggles, and especially in the economic arena, can we help give political coherence to this broad coalition.
New Zeal Communists must get their hands dirty, increase dominance of the union movement and the mass organisations. This is not the time to sit on the sidelines.
- Yes, we should bring issues and more advanced positions into the process that go beyond the initiatives of the Obama administration and the broad multiclass, many-layered coalition that supports it. But we should do this within the framework of the main task of supporting Obama’s program of action and building breadth, depth and participation of the core forces. We have to master the art of combining partial demands with more advanced ones. The former (partial demands) are the immediate grounds for building broad unity in action...
New Zeal Communists must keep pushing to the left whenever possible, but should never do this at the expense of movement unity. Keeping the movement behind Obama united is the number one priority.
- Nevertheless, we shouldn’t assume that the Obama administration will inevitably track right. It isn’t dialectical because it fails to take into account the election mandate, the new leverage of labor and its allies and, perhaps most important, the broader developments in the economy. We also shouldn’t have any truck with people on the left who argue that the main protagonists in the coming period are the Obama administration and Democrats on one side and the people on the other.
- Finally, we should take a dim view of some on the left who will wait for the new administration to stumble and then immediately call for a break and attempt to turn broader forces into a hostile opposition. In fact, probably the biggest challenge for the core forces of this multiclass coalition is to resist attempts by reaction and some left forces to pit the Obama administration and Congress against the main sections of the people’s movement on one or another issue. Where there are (and will be) differences over appointments, legislation or other actions between the administration and the broad democratic forces, these differences have to handled in such a way as not to break the overall unity.
New Zeal Unity is all! Unity is all! Unity is all!
- The left can and should advance its own views and disagree with the Obama administration without being disagreeable. Its tone should be respectful. We are speaking to a friend. When the administration and Congress take positive initiatives, they should be wholeheartedly welcomed. Nor should anyone think that everything will be done in 100 days. After all, main elements of the New Deal were codified into law in 1935, 1936 and 1937.
- Although we are not in the socialist stage of the revolutionary process, we are, nevertheless on the road, and the only road, that will lead to socialism – to a society that is egalitarian in the rough sense, eliminates exploitation of working people, brings an end to all forms of oppression, and is notable for the many-layered participation of working people and their allies in the management of the economy and state.
- The room for socialist ideas is in the public square has grown enormously. Such ideas can be easily discussed with many people and people’s leaders. Furthermore, the force of economic events will compel millions more to consider socialist ideas that in the past were dismissed out of hand. But our vision of socialism will resonate to the degree that it addresses contemporary sensibilities and challenges...
New Zeal Communists must keep their eyes on the big picture. We are on the road to socialism and we must not deviate.
- Our role, as I have tried to say, is to be part of the struggles going forward – beginning with attending the inauguration and encouraging others to do the same. It’s going to be a grand event and a public expression of support for Obama and a mass expression for change.
- Let’s reengage with others (labor, the nationally and racially oppressed, women, and youth) in this struggle. As to precisely what we do, we have to do some brainstorming as well as consult with people and organizations that we worked with in the election campaign.
- A couple of ideas come to mind. We should consider initiating meetings to discuss the economic crisis and how to respond to it at the local, state and national level. Such meetings could be very broad in their participation and sponsorship. We should also mobilize support for Obama’s stimulus package, for aid to the auto corporations -- albeit with strings -- and for immediate relief for homeowners...
- In these and the other struggles, we have to become better at building the Party, press and YCL. I don’t want to say the opportunities to build the Party and press are limitless, but they have grown immensely.
- Let me finish by saying that it sure feels good to be on the winning side. I’m sure everyone feels the same way. At the same time, because of this historic victory, we –and the broader movement that we are a part of – have our work cut out for us in the coming years. It’s a big challenge, but we have met other challenges. So let’s go out there and do it with a sense of confidence that the best days for our country lay ahead of us. Yes we can! Si Se Puede! Thank you.
Communist Party speaker
- Sam Webb is the former national chair of the Communist Party, USA, a position to which he was elected in 2000 and then reelected in 2001, 2005 and 2010 – a position he recently stepped down from at the CPUSA’s 30th National Convention. From 1977 through 1988 he was the District Organizer for the Communist Party in Michigan. Earlier, he was active in the labor movement in his home state of Maine.
- Webb has written numerous articles and essays on Marxism, Building a Communist Party of the 21st Century, Unemployment and Capitalism and The Mentality of Marginalization, among many other topics. He is a public spokesperson for the CPUSA, and travels extensively in the U.S. and abroad, including recent trips to South Africa, China, Vietnam, and Cuba where he met with leaders of those countries.
- Webb currently resides in New York City, graduated from St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia and received his MA in economics from the University of Connecticut.
- PWW, May Day Supplement May 2, 1992
- Political Affairs, March 1994
- People's Weekly World May 6 1995 p 2
- CPUSA Delegation returns from China, Vietnam, Dan Margolis, Peoples World, December 23, 2006
- Speak Progress, Speakers page