Why do Social Democrats do what they do?

November 12, 2015

Report from the CPUSA on the correlation of forces in US class and democratic struggles, by Tony Pecinovsky of National Board, CPUSA Nov 11 2015

Original Report title: CPUSA Statement to 17th International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties
from National Board, CPUSA
Nov 11, 2015
Submitted by Tony Pecinovsky, member of National Board, CPUSA
Istanbul, Turkey, Oct 30 - Nov 01, 15

link: http://cpusa.org/cpusa-statement-to-17th-international-meeting-of-communist-and-workers-parties/


We extend our heartfelt condolences to the people of Turkey generally and to our Turkish comrades specifically for the losses suffered at the hands of reactionary forces in your country. We collectively grieve for your loss. The cowardly suicide bombing of the Ankara peare rally illustrates the depths of barbarity to which right-wing forces will go to attempt to stifle the voice of the people. The AKP, president Erdogan, prime minister Davutoglu and their ultra-nationalist, possibly fascist proxies, evidently bear responsibility for this assault. Their goal is clearly the suppression of democracy, intimidation of the Turkish people, continued war with the Kurdish people and isolation of Turkish communists and their allies in the labor and people's movement.

However, we have faith that unity can defeat reaction. AKP attempts to suppress and intimidate can easily be seen as acts of desperation by an illegitimate government struggling to maintain power. Fortunately, this desperation can give birth to its antithesis. We express our solidarity and best wishes for a new democratic upsurge in Turkey.

My remarks will focus on four overlapping, interconnected items that are central components to the struggle against reaction in the United States. First and foremost, I will briefly touch on the upcoming 2016 U.S. presidential elections; second, the ongoing and emerging challenge to racism, exemplified by #BlackLivesMatter; third, the ‘Fight For $15' and a union, led by fast food workers and their allies; and forth, a few thoughts regarding the international situation. While these items undoubtedly overlap, I have separated them in an attempt to focus on specific nuances. I hope this adds clarity.

The 2016 U.S. presidential elections


The importance of the 2016 U.S. presidential elections cannot be exaggerated.

Americans are increasingly upset about the growing economic inequality in our country. The Occupy Wall Street slogan of the 1 percent versus the 99 percent has taken root in public awareness of the mounting and glaring inequities of our current system. Continuing economic insecurity, declining standards of living, hemorrhaging of jobs, persistent structural racism evidenced in a variety of toxic forms, environmental degradation and insecurity, austerity cuts in essential public services, crises in education - these and more weigh heavily on the 99 percent of Americans who make up our working class.

A powerful extreme right has emerged in our country over three decades beginning with the Reagan and even Nixon years. With the 2008 election of President Barack Obama, a liberal who is the nation's first African American president, this extreme right went into overdrive. Having achieved domination of the Republican Party, the far-right now controls both houses of Congress and many state governments, and has a big presence - often forming the majority - in our nation's highest court, the Supreme Court. These elements, very well financed by the most right-wing sectors in our ruling circles, such as the oil industry, are viciously racist, militarist, anti-union, hostile to environmental protection, women, immigrants, sex and gender equality, and public services. Their foreign policy is aggressive, shoot-first, racist. They are a danger to the world and to our own population, and are an obstacle to any social progress in our country. Having captured significant position of power, they have forced progressive movements into a defensive posture, fighting just to protect or even re-win past gains. Now they are intent on recapturing the White House, putting them in virtually total control.

We consider the defeat of the far-right Republicans an essential first step in the struggle for a people's agenda and ultimately socialism. The race for the next presidency has already begun. In our two-party system, the race is between two parties, Republican and Democratic.

One the one hand, we have the Republican Party, now dominated by rabid, hate-filled, racist, anti-worker, anti-immigrant, anti-women, anti-environment, anti-LGBT, anti-people, pro-corporate profit warmongers, exemplified by the billionaire Donald Trump. Domestically and internationally, this group of reactionaries are unanimous. They want anti-immigrant border walls built, unions broken and women's rights smashed. They want to pursue provocative policies that have clearly failed in Iran, Syria, Cuba and elsewhere. They want aggressive militaristic actions in Eastern Europe against Russia. They are racist, sexist, homophobic and anti-Muslim. With strong backing from Big Oil, they deny the reality of the emerging climate crisis. And their only loyalty is corporate profits.

Aided by a recent decision of the right-dominated U.S. Supreme Court - ‘Citizens United' - this group of millionaires and billionaires have unlimited financial resources at their disposal. Make no mistake about it, the Republican presidential candidates work at the behest of unrestricted aggressive capitalism and imperialism.

They represent the most reactionary, militaristic section of the U.S. ruling class.

On the other side in our two-party system are a range of Democratic Party candidates who take a generally pro-worker, pro-women's rights, pro-immigrant, anti-racist, pro-environment, less militarist stance. They include HIllary Clinton, the frontrunner, a defender of capitalism who believes it must be curbed and regulated to be more people-friendly. She has stood up to vicious attacks from the ultra-right. If elected, she would break new ground as the first woman president of the U.S. They also include Bernie Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont who is a self-avowed socialist and calls for a "political revolution." Even if he does not win the Democratic nomination, his grassroots campaign has attracted enormous excitement and very importantly has brought discussion of socialism out of the shadows and back into the political mainstream.

Opposing the Republicans, Clinton and similar Democrats represent a more reality-based, sober section of the U.S. ruling class, which sees a need for alliance with the working class on a range of issues. Sanders represents an emerging progressive/left/working and middle class section of American politics, which sees the Democratic Party as the best vehicle for electoral battles at this time in our two-party system. Together, they reflect a shift in public opinion and growing mass demand to seriously address mounting income inequality, persistent racism, the crisis of climate change, immigrant rights, stop attacks on women's rights, defend and expand voting rights and access, advance equality for LGBT Americans.

It must be said that foreign policy is not playing a big role in the presidential campaign so far. Americans typically are mainly focused on their pressing domestic concerns. However, foreign policy differences are significant, as we saw with the disastrous consequences of Bush winning the White House in 2000. The Democrats have a range of views, and there are many serious problems there which I will discuss below, but on the whole they place greater reliance on diplomacy and less on reckless military adventurism than the ultra-militaristic Republicans.

The presidential campaign thus reflects divisions within U.S. ruling circles, divisions that must be utilized as we work to expand democracy and curb corporate power.

It is in this larger context - the essential struggle to defeat racist, militarist reaction - that we implement our long-term strategic policy of helping to build and working with the broad-based people's movement, led by labor and the African American community, to defeat the ultra-right as a necessary step in building a transformative movement for socialism. Our immediate task is to help defeat these most reactionary segments of U.S. capitalism, both to protect the planet and our own people, and to make it possible for the people's movement to advance to the next stage of struggle.

Challenging racism

Last year's police killing of the African American teenager Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri, sparked a nationwide movement that is today challenging systemic racism at its core. The justifiable outrage and protests that erupted after the killing were met with a level of police misconduct and violence reminiscent of another era. The use of smoke bombs, tear gas, percussion grenades, rubber bullets and armored vehicles against the residents of Ferguson - mostly youth - served to illustrate the systemic, racist nature of the use of police force. Further, it sparked a national debate on the collective criminalization of people of color and the military-like occupation of their communities. Since last fall other police killings have been highlighted. This has given birth to the #BlackLivesMatter movement, which has succeeded in calling attention to systemic racism in our society and the need to make fundamental changes

This movement has highlighted the interconnected struggles and systematic disparities inherent in racism in the United States regarding health, education, employment and criminal justice. Social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, etc., have played a key role in the emergence of this challenge to racism. Like the Occupy Wall Street movement, #BlackLivesMatter is largely a spontaneous, organic outburst of organizing and community engagement led by youth with the potential to re-frame our national priorities.

For us, the fight against racism is a cornerstone of the movement for peace, jobs, democracy and socialism. #BlackLivesMatter is playing an important role in this regard. While there are some weaknesses that can and should be addressed, overall the emergence of this new challenge to racism is a step in the right direction.

It also highlights the importance of social media in the people's movements, and the need for communist and workers parties to engage in these new media and other online forms yet to come.

Fight for $15 and a union

Over the past three years, fast food workers across the United States have been striking McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and other fast food chains demanding livable wages and union rights - their slogan is ‘$15 [an hour] and a union.' These low-wage highly exploited workers have in many ways rejuvenated the entire labor movement and brought the issue of poverty wages to a mass audience. And they are winning real victories.

This new working class movement has easily connected with the new #BlackLivesMatter movement to highlight racist wage disparities imposed upon people of color. It is a struggle against racism, sexism and for reclaiming surplus value, as fast food company profits are directly related to poverty wages, especially among women and people of color. More and more Americans are beginning to see a direct link between low wages and multi-billion-dollar corporate profits. The fight for ‘$15 and a union' has branched out into other low-wage service sector jobs like bank tellers, department store clerks, adjunct professors, etc., and has connected with international allies, thereby providing a modern twist on Karl Marx's old saying, ‘Workers of the world unite!'

Tellingly, the Obama administration and Sanders and Clinton have all called for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, while all of the Republican candidates oppose increasing the minimum wage - and some Republicans oppose having a minimum wage, period.

Internationalism

First, the emerging climate crisis is a global, working class issue, a fundamental issue, which all communist and workers' parties must embrace. It is already affecting economic and social problems and movements throughout the world, including wars and migration. Curbing and mitigating climate change requires a shift in economic priorities, trillions in green infrastructure investments and the creation of millions of green jobs. It must be an essential component of the new socialist societies we seek to build, and the movements we lead and help to advance. The U.S.-China joint statement on climate change is well-timed and sets the stage for even further progress at the important upcoming United Nations climate change conference to be held in Paris in December. This is especially significant as the United States and China are the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the world. We urge the international communist and workers parties to take up this issue seriously and incorporate it into our thinking, discussions and actions.

Comrades, we celebrate a number of positive developments on the international scene that involve the U.S..

The Obama administration made a bold and historic move in opening up relations with socialist Cuba - ending 50 years of a failed and inhumane Cold War policy. This is an illustration of divisions with U.S. ruling circles - some sections of U.S. capital pressed for this change, while others - the more reactionary sectors - fought and continue to fight it bitterly. All of the current Republican presidential candidates have vowed to reverse even modest overtures towards the normalizing of relations with Cuba. We will work with other democratic and progressive forces in our country to make sure that this remarkable breakthrough is safeguarded and built upon, including finally ending the economic embargo that hurts both Cubans and Americans.

The historic meeting between President Obama and the Communist Party of Vietnam general secretary Nguyen Phu Trong at the Oval Office could very well be seen as a milestone in US-Vietnamese relations. While the meeting resulted in only modest progress, and as right-wing Republicans criticized the administration, the Vietnamese and American people undoubtedly want to see more trade, investment and dialog between our two nations.


The Obama administration's landmark nuclear agreement with Iran will ease tensions and increase opportunities for resolving a number of dangerous crises in the greater Middle East and beyond. It will also make life better for the Iranian people and remove an excuse for Iran's theocratic despots to continue their lock on power. It has dealt another defeat to Republican warhawks eager to boost military spending and embark on yet another devastating and deadly misadventure in the region. Needless to say, Obama has been harshly attacked by these reactionaries in the U.S. as well as those in Israel who seek to fan war flames to protect their illegal occupation of Palestinian land.

These positive developments illustrate the vastly different foreign policy political outlooks of an Obama, a Clinton or a Sanders - despite various shortcomings - compared with the ignorant reckless knee-jerk militarism of the Republican presidential candidates. That puts the 2016 U.S. presidential elections into an international context.

On the other hand, the United States bears a big responsibility for the current catastrophic civil war in Syria, the continuing tragedies ravaging Iraq, and the emergence of the so-called Islamic State (daesh), as well as the staggering migrant and humanitarian crisis affecting Syria, Iraq, Turkey, and Europe. The Obama administration has been pulled in two directions, sometimes resisting calls from the right for aggressive military intervention, other times pursuing such harmful policies. Just this week it appears the administration will unilaterally send in more troops to Syria. At the same time it fails to do what is necessary to resolve the Syria crisis and defeat the Islamic State: namely, cooperate with Russia and forge a truly multinational diplomatic settlement.

We oppose U.S. armed intervention in the region. A collective strategy of stabilization and reconstruction is needed. We condemn the actions of the Islamic State and other reactionary terrorist groups. However, as in Afghanistan, the United States is the primary culprit in destabilizing the region, fanning sectarianism and aiding reaction in the form of the Saudi clique and the Israeli far-right, and creating the power vacuum that has led to the emergence of fundamentalist groups like the Islamic State. Therefore a heavy burden falls on the U.S. to provide material relief, fund emergency refugee shelters and work towards a unified settlement that incorporates all democratic-minded people. Our starting point for engagement on these issues is the 2016 elections, as mentioned above.

The ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict shows no end in sight, with a reckless far-right dominated Israel determined to maintain its illegal occupation of Palestinian land and its inhumane racist policies toward Palestinian people and other minorities including citizens of Israel. In fact the Israeli right has moved toward creating a theocratic state not unlike that of the Iranian ayatollahs it claims to abhor. Even Israeli Jews are increasingly rejecting this kind of racist militarist oppression. In the U.S., support for the far-right Israeli regime is based primarily in a small sector of the Jewish American community and the Christian far-right that plays a big role in the Republican Party. American Jews have become increasingly disturbed by the racist and provocative policies of the Netanyahu government, in flagrant violation of international law, and his outrageous intervention into American domestic politics with the help of Republican leaders. The Obama administration has incurred the wrath of Netanyahu by opposing some of his extreme policies. However, clearly the U.S. needs to do much more. It supplies the Israeli government with several billions of dollars each year and untold military assistance. Those are powerful levers that need to be applied to compel Israel to halt its illegal settlement expansion, end its illegal occupation and cooperate in the establishment of a viable Palestinian state.

The leftward trend in Central and South America continues to play an important role in global and hemispheric developments and to inspire activists in the U.S. From Venezuela, to Brazil, to Ecuador, Bolivia, and elsewhere, progressive, leftists, socialists and communists are playing a leading role in governing through left and progressive coalitions. This leftward trend is a direct challenge to U.S. capitalist hegemony and continued transnational corporate exploitation, lowering of living standards and destruction of the environment through trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This leftward trend is under attack from elements within the U.S., however. We along with other democratic-minded and progressive Americans are insisting that such attacks cease and that the U.S. accept a new balance of forces in the region in which the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean determine their societies and futures without interference or domination from their neighbor to the north. This is an ongoing struggle.

We also oppose the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership in Europe and stand with our European comrades in battling against it. Trade deals like the TPP and the TTIP weaken workers' rights, destroy unions, strangle living standards and stifle democracy, while boosting corporate profits

Other dangerous developments include U.S. moves to remilitarize Japan as part of its "pivot to Asia" directed largely at confronting China, and U.S. expansion of its military role in Africa through Africom (U.S. African Command). Along with the people of those areas, we have a primary responsibility to mobilize opposition to these harmful militarist ventures, and will continue to do so.

Conclusion

We face a monumental crisis, as global capitalism has now - for the first time in human history - usurped powers it cannot possibly control with its reckless exploitation of the planet's resources - most notably fossil fuels - to power its profit drive. The destruction of our environment, and ultimately, the destruction of life on Earth is a very real possibility if the impending climate crisis is not averted. Socialism in our lifetimes is not only possible, it is an absolute imperative - if we are to survive. For only socialism can put into place the democratic policies and practices capable of securing our collective future, a sustainable future. A future free of human exploitation and environmental degradation. A future that puts people and nature before profits!

The CPUSA and our sister publication the People's World are both eager to work with comrades and fraternal parties to accomplish the most rewarding of all tasks - the winning of socialism! In solidarity!

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