Saturday, March 29, 2008
Notes on the Main Political Report, Nat'l Cmte. CPUSA, Mar. 29-30
Sam Webb delivered the main political report, which is a collaborative speech produced and commented on by many party leaders. Here are some notes. The full speech will be available in a few days at cpusa.org.
American voters have confounded pundits and political predicters have set the stage for a political victory in November for the people's movement.
The election and empowerment of a people's government would remove barriers to social progress by checking the power of monopoly capital and militarism.
The people's movement is seeking a leader that will appeal to our better selves and unify our movement.
Democratic primaries signal a huge upsurge with record-breaking turnout and enthusiasm.
"The high octane of this upsurge is simply breathtaking," he said.
Webb rejected the notion that the primaries are sidelining issues for the sake of personalities.
"This is anything but an issueless campaign," he said. Contrasting it with 2004, Webb recalled that the war on terror took up all of the conversation in the past.
"It should be celebrated as a great democratic achievement, " he said in reference to the the nature of the campaign, that Clinton and Obama are the leading candidates.
Webb predicted the outcome would bring enormous change that puts people's need before warmaking, sleaze and policies that put profits before peoples need.
Such an outcome is possible regardless of whether or not Clinton or Obama wins.
The main dilemma of the left is to not be left behind in this upsurge, he said. If we are not engaged in this struggle to advance the people's movement, we will be left behind.
The Democratic campaigns and the possibility for change have eroded disillusionment and apathy.
Independent involvement is part of the upsurge, and people are inspired by the possibility that this election will result in real changes and improvements in their daily lives.
The US left generally rejects out of hand the electoral politics of the Democratic Party resulting in the failure to recognize the importance of daily events and the significance of the upsurge. We don't follow this path, Webb said.
In 2007 we, the CPUSA, said the presidential elections could set into motion a process of social progress, Webb added. But, we didn't anticipate the full impact of this upsurge, however.
Webb spoke to the role of youth voters in the upsurge. In comparing the youth presence today to the past, Webb said it is of a qualitative different magnitude.
Webb talked about the fact that the nature of the support for the both candidates shows that working class voters will vote for a woman and an African American candidate. Neither would have been swept to the place they are now with support from either women or Black voters alone.
To say that Clinton has garnered the vast majority of the working class vote is simply wrong, he said. Black voters are overwhelming working class. The working class has divided its vote between the two. Trade union voters have given a slight edge to Clinton, but Obama has polled well and has won important endorsements.
On the issue of demographics, "we should stay away form easy and static explanations," he said.
Whites vote for Obama because of his stance on the war, his ability to unify the country, his personal appeal, his youthfulness, his stance on issues and so forth.
Some men may be inclined to be so motivated by sexism that would never vote for Clinton, but most men haven't followed this pattern and have voted for Obama for many other reasons.
White voters who have backed Clinton have not simply done so out of racial motives. They have supported her for experience and her stance on issues.
The point is that there are many different reasons that workers have cast their support in one direction or the other and cannot be simply reduced to race, gender, or other simplistic demographic categories repeated in the mainstream media.
Obama's candidacy is unique in all of this. It is transformational and new. It has brought new forces into the process and built new organizational forms.
"What makes it different is that it has the feel of a movement," Webb said. Obama speaks to people's desires and inspires them.
"He is a fresh voice on the political scene. His courage and astuteness are obvious," Webb said.
His desire to over come racial and religious and national and other divisions "strikes a deeply responsive chord far and wide."
"His ability to articulate a vision, speak to people's hopes, and use his platform to educate millions is refreshing, Webb said.
While he shares many policy ideas with Clinton, his capacity to speak to people and to build unity is more impressive.
For her part, Clinton would likely govern to the left of her husband, and she would be a formidable opponent for McCain.
Rhetorically posing a common question on the left, Webb asked, what about Obama's backing from Wall Street and leading elements in the Democratic Party?
The answers to these questions, while crucial, don't tell us about what his presidency will look like.
While class and class struggle shouldn't be set aside, the character of an Obama presidency cannot be solely determined by questions about the nature of the capitalist backing of his candidacy.
Webb cited historical examples. Frederick Douglass would not have backed Lincoln's candidacy, if he had allowed narrow political questions about abolition to govern his decision to do so.
William Z. Foster would not have tacitly backed Roosevelt and the New Deal if he had allowed narrow questions about FDR's class background to determine his view on this matter.
We have a chance to sweep the Republicans from power in a landslide. "It is an altogether new page in American politics," Webb said.
Webb rejected the ongoing presence of racism in the campaign, but praised the general sense that millions of working class voters have also done so already.
"The struggle against racism and sexism in all of its ideological forms is in as much in the interest of white workers as it is in the interest of female workers and and workers of color," Webb said.
We should reject the notion of the racial or gender progress as a zero sum game. Advances in equality do not come at the expense of white or male or native-born workers.
Webb discussed the role of a racial subtext injected by Bill Clinton and others in the Clinton campaign. "Concerns about unity seem to have been cast aside," Webb noted, in her drive to an inevitable coronation in August. Webb referred to her campaign's fear about Obama's religious background, his patriotism and his racial identity.
Both campaigns should insist on ending this kind of campaigning or what appears to be a solid chance at victory could vanish, Webb said. Only a united movement can lead to a victory in November.
Likewise, Webb continued, Hillary-bashing in sexist terms also diminishes the unity of the movement.
Webb described Obama's speech on race as courageous and brilliant and lauded him for taking an opportunity to talk about a difficult subject that has rarely been addressed by a national figure.
Webb suggested that smearing Obama is done out of fear by sections of the ruling class and the right-wing and some right-wing Democrats that his candidacy represents a diminishment of their power in ruling circles.
They lose sleep over fear that a people's movement will inspire the emergence of a new New Deal.
Webb went on to discuss the deepening economic and financial crisis. He linked Republican policies of the last thirty years and the ongoing decline of US capitalism and imperialism.
What is needed is a broad and ambitious program off housing relief, urban investment ,environmental clean up and more.
A favorable outcome of this election will give working people power to prevent capitalists from shifting the burden of this recession onto the backs of workers.
Equally the war must end. Resources for the war would've have been better spent on needs at home.
"Too much blood and treasure has been lost. It's time to bring the troops home," Webb said.
All peace minded people should unify and defeat McCain.
Obama isn't a "left" candidate and isn't going to embrace "left" issues. The aim of this election is to defeat the right. As such the goal is to elect a Democratic president strengthen Democratic majorities in Congress. This won't constitute a victory only for the Democratic Party but one for the whole working class and for people around the world.
"The day after the election won't matter if we don't win the day of the election," Webb said.
Left and progressive forces are too small to drive the debate and pressure from the left. Thus we should join the conversation that is already taking place and participate in that manner. Our main task is to expose McCain and contrast his views on a host of issues with the Democratic nominee.
The left's goal should not be to influence candidates but to influence the ideas and thought patterns of the people.
Three ideological questions:
1) Labor-led people's movement: How not to diminish the role of the movements of other core forces (movement for equality of the nationally and racially oppressed, Women's movement, and so on)? How can we avoid a unnecessarily narrow views on these questions in order to avoid given the appearance that we see other core forces as "add-ons" or footnotes in the movement?
2) Class: How do we clarify a notion of the working class to that promote the unity of the class? Not simply reducibly to trade unionists or productive workers. Our view should be wide-angled but with the notion that there are strategic sectors, but that our aim is to unite the whole class.
3) What is the relationship between unity and struggle? Clarify the relationship between participating in struggle and deepening ideological and practical activity to advance the struggle.