“Fighting for Jobs Against Republican Obstructionism” first appeared on PoliticalAffairs.net on June 11, 2010. Read it on PoliticalAffairs.net.
Editor’s note: Below is an excerpted and slightly edited portion of Sam Webb’s main political report to the Communist Party’s national convention held last month. Read the full speech at CPUSA.org.
In the past, I said we are entering an era of reforms and possibly radical reforms. In hindsight, I overstated the nature of the election victory. The right, while undeniably weakened, wasn’t decisively defeated. That remains to be done.
A decisive defeat of the right – signified by larger Democratic majorities, the growth of the progressive wing in Congress, a higher degree of trade union organization and struggle, a decline in the influence of rightwing ideology, a higher degree of multiracial unity and anti-racist consciousness, greater unity and vision of the all people’s coalition, and so forth – will profoundly alter the political landscape.
Imagine what the past year would have looked like if the right had been fully dethroned from its positions of power in the last election! Granted it wouldn’t mean fair skies and clear sailing for the people’s coalition, but it is in the realm of possibility to think that the health care bill would have been stronger, the stimulus bigger, unemployment lower, resistance to military spending and escalating the war greater, relations with Cuba and Latin America better, and financial reform tougher.
In the words, a decisive victory over the right will set the stage for a period of sustained, deep-going anti-corporate democratization and reform. Thus, the struggle against the right, as some suggest, doesn’t submerge or bypass or postpone the class struggle; on the contrary, it is evident that it brings to the surface, clears the ground, and creates a more favorable terrain for a more open struggle against finance capital, corporate power, neo-liberalism, and imperial rule.
For now we are in a transitional stage. We aren’t fighting from a defensive position, but the right and the sections of capital that support still have to be slam dunked “Lebron James style.”
We don’t pick the ground of struggle on which we fight; that depends on the balance of class forces and the level of political consciousness, organization, and unity of millions.
Stages of struggle, and especially transitions from one stage to another, are never clearly defined. In the best of circumstances, they capture the main trends of political, economic, and ideological development among a morass of competing tendencies and complex processes.
On a concrete level, class struggles are never “pure” in content or forms. Some may think so, but they will never live to see it.
The historical and political process is more like a mutt than a pure bred. Its distinguishing features are not so obvious. It is incumbent, therefore, to make a concrete and sober analysis of what the main obstacle to social progress is, who has to be assembled in order to move to the next stage of struggle, and what the main task is.
The lived experience of millions is one of constant worry – worry about their job, home, health care, debt, old age, racial profiling and police violence, illegal roundups, and their children’s future.
Not since the Great Depression have so many Americans been so uneasy and so angry. For nearly half a century the nation’s working people embraced and took comfort in the American dream – a dream whose promissory note read that if you work hard and do the right things, a good and secure life is attainable.
I wouldn’t say that dream is dead, but more and more people have less and less hope that it is within reach. Forces beyond their control have snatched it from them.
Many, not knowing where to turn, simply resign themselves to their circumstances.
Others (teabaggers and all) are captured by lies, half-truths, and hate-filled rhetoric steeped in a subtext of racism, male supremacy, distrust of immigrants, and false patriotism, and end up doing the bidding of the very people and corporations that are grinding them down.
And still others – especially of late – are turning their anger into purposeful and collective rage.
To mention a few examples:
Union workers at Hugo Boss in Ohio prevented their plant from closing, with help from actor Danny Glover.
Opposition to Arizona’s draconian and unconstitutional immigration law is mushrooming there and elsewhere.
Florida’s governor vetoed a rightwing-inspired overhaul of public education, thanks in great measure to a “friendly nudge” from outraged school employees, parents and the general public.
The student mobilizations on University of California campuses against cutbacks and tuition hikes were impressive.
Labor’s May Day marches struck a high note in a number of cities, including New York.
The campaign for jobs and against Wall St. initiated by the AFL-CIO and other major organizations is off and running.
The near-victories by Rick Nagin and Rudy Lozano in recent election campaigns are a sign of the times.
Battles over education reform, protests against police violence, and contract struggles are making the news.
The anti-nuclear conference and rally at the UN in early May struck a much-needed note for peace.
And, not least, the struggle over health care reform signifies this turn towards action.
You could easily say there was one mood before the health care bill passed and another mood afterwards.
In fact, viewing the struggle through a dialectical lens, the bill’s passage was not only a victory on its own terms, but it also changed the larger political dynamics of Washington and the country in a positive way.
It broke a Republican-engineered logjam in Congress, brought people into the streets, and gave a fresh push to the process of progressive change.
In short, people’s anger is growing, the popular mood is changing, and the coalition that elected the president is moving forward again.
The two issues of overriding importance are the 2010 elections and the economic crisis – especially growing and chronic joblessness. I will address each in turn, and then add two cautionary tales.
For more than a year, the main issue that captured our energy and the energy of millions of others was health care reform.
With the signing of a health care bill, our attention is shifting to job creation, (although I should add that much still has to be done to acquaint the American people with the content of this bill in order to counter the legion of lies that spill from the mouths of the fulminating fools of the Party of NO and to press for more basic solutions to the health are crisis.)
To state the obvious, the jobs picture of the working class (broadly understood) is bleak and likely to remain so. In the racially and nationally oppressed and immigrant communities it is worse than bleak. There the struggle for many is to survive.
To change this depression-like situation, greater working-class organization of the employed and unemployed, job creation programs (for example, a public works program and state developmental bank), multi-racial and broad people’s unity, and mass actions (mass is relative to circumstances) are imperative. It is urgent to win immediate legislative battles – unemployment compensation, the Harkin education jobs bill, the Miller Local Jobs for America bill, the Murray bill to help veterans find jobs, etc.
This legislation can assist the lives of millions of families facing personal catastrophe while modestly improving the overall economy. No less important, they can put the necessary and more transformative anti-corporate, anti-military, and anti-super rich changes into the public conversation.
In recent months, we participated in a range of actions for jobs, relief, and financial reform. In many cities, we are now a part of the jobs campaign led by the labor movement.
Many of us participated in the mobilizations on May Day and in the actions the preceding week. In some places we were part of the planning committees. Isn’t it a sign of the times that May Day is once again becoming a day of celebration and action, thanks to the labor movement and immigrant rights organizations?
We also organized several discussions at the national, district, and club levels on the jobs crisis. And in mid-July the Party will host a jobs conference with the Young Communist League.
As positive as this is, we aren’t satisfied with our work; we aren’t fully mobilized as a Party; not every district or club has had a full discussion and mapped out specific initiatives.
Thus, the challenge is to step up our activity from Maine to California. That won’t happen overnight or without some adjustments in our work. Required are creative and practical ideas, party-wide attention, ongoing coordination, doggedness, experimentation and plenty of initiative.