WADSWORTH, Ohio—The playground equipment stood empty at a public park here on Saturday, March 11, as more than a dozen Nazis stood at attention and bellowed in unison multiple rounds of full-throated “Sieg heil!” salutes, aping Hitler’s legions of 80 years ago.
They were part of a large crowd that had gathered ostensibly for the “protection” of children who were there to participate in a reading group. The supposed threat endangering the kids of Wadsworth? Drag queens armed with children’s storybooks.
Approximately 50 participants gathered for the “Rock and Roll Drag Queen Story Hour,” which included a group reading of a children’s novel, “Elle the Humanist,” followed by “a Rock-n-Roll celebration of drag and life’s beautiful diversity,” according to the event’s organizers. The event was planned as a fundraiser for a local LGBTQ charity in remembrance of the victims of the Club Q shooting in Colorado Springs last November.
Wadsworth City Council had granted a permit for the event earlier in the week, although the council president subsequently suggested that legislation would soon be introduced to prohibit “adult-type entertainment that involves children” in the future.
Wadsworth Brewing Company had withdrawn its commitment to host the event after receiving multiple threats, leading the organizers to apply for a permit to gather at Wadsworth Memorial Park.
The reading group and drag event was met by the organized vitriol of at least 200 fascists, Christian fundamentalists, Proud Boys, Patriot Front, White Lives Matter, and various unaffiliated opponents of LGBTQ rights. Attendees reported a large number of cars with out-of-state license plates in the parking lot.
Both local and national right-wing groups had planned the coordinated intimidation of participants in the Rock and Roll Humanist Drag Queen Story Hour for weeks leading up to the event.
Prominent right-wing organizers included Republican politicians such as Kristopher Anderson, candidate for the Ohio State House of Representatives in 2022. Anderson and his supporters shouted slogans against so-called “grooming” alongside proponents of overt Nazi imagery, open racism, and homophobia. At least one member of Anderson’s group was detained by police after assaulting an LGBTQ rights supporter.
Placed alongside his current work organizing mob intimidation of LGBTQ people, Anderson’s previously stated political positions plainly illustrate the alliance between fascist violence and pro-business policymaking: “Tax climate, regulatory environment, labor laws, and workforce development are all issues for businesses that Kristopher can help address at the State House.”
Video captured at the event circulated widely on social media throughout the weekend. Most striking were images of local police standing in defense of a large contingent of white men in red and black outfits carrying a large banner stating “There Will Be Blood” in an elaborate gothic font. The men chanted Nazi slogans and generally displayed belligerent and intimidating behavior for a contingent of cameras.
Other prominent imagery referred to the right-wing mythology of “grooming,” using a variety of homophobic and racist slurs. Before conservatives engineered their fake anti-drag queen hysteria, the term “grooming” was typically only used to refer to the practice of predators who prepared children and other vulnerable people for sexual abuse.
Men in tactical gear circulated throughout the large crowd. Ohio allows the open carry of firearms in many public places; it was unclear how many opponents of the Drag Story Hour may have been armed.
The four-hour demonstration came amidst a coordinated national right-wing campaign targeting the LGBTQ community with intimidation and violence under the auspices of concern for child welfare. Recent survey data suggests that sympathy for these ideas has permeated a large proportion of the Republican voter base, with as many as 45% of Republican voters agreeing with the statement that discussions on sexual orientation and gender identity represent “grooming” behavior.
The violent persecution of homosexuality was one of the first campaigns of the Nazi Party and its supporters after their ascension to power with the support of finance capital in Germany in the 1930s. In addition to the near total destruction of the German LGBTQ community, the Hitler movement galvanized and normalized the use of state violence to dispossess vulnerable individuals and was subsequently extended to an even wider population.
David Hill is a member of the Mike Gold Collective in Columbus. He follows labor, housing, policing, and workers’ issues in central Ohio.
LANSING, Mich.—Michigan’s pro-worker Democratic sweep last November swept out the Wolverine State’s corporate Republican-passed right-to-work (for less) laws in March.
Democratic legislative leaders, who took “trifecta” power in the election, made RTW repeal their #1 priority and won it 56-53 in the state House and 20-17 in the Senate on party-line votes.
Then lawmakers, also on party-line votes, restored project labor agreements, too.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), whose landslide win over a Trumpite foe produced the coattails that created the first completely Democratic control in Lansing in decades, is expected to sign both measures. The RTW repeal would be the first in a state in 60 years.
Workers jammed the capitol rotunda in Lansing before the House votes, chanting “We are union, the mighty, mighty union,” and erupted into a minute-and-a-half of constant cheers, raised fists, and whoops in a corridor outside the state Senate chamber after the votes there.
Right-to-work is a favorite Republican, radical right, and corporate cause, which seeks to strip workers and their unions of money and political power. PLAs set up both deadlines and worker protections on construction projects. Banning them is the top goal of the anti-worker Associated Builders and Contractors, an ersatz “grassroots” association of cut-rate non-union contractors.
Started in the 1940s as a racist way to divide white from Black workers in the South, right-to-work spread to Michigan in 2012 after the 2010 Republican legislative sweep there and elsewhere. Given unions’ prominent role in Michigan, the RTW win particularly hurt there.
So its repeal was especially gratifying to the state AFL-CIO and Michigan workers. And just to make sure the repeal sticks, lawmakers added some unrelated appropriations for education programs. Laws with money in them can’t be pushed into referendums. Others can.
“Today, our pro-worker Democratic majority in the state House took historic action to undo the devastation caused by decades of attacks on workers’ freedom,” state AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber said after House passage.
“Since 2012, thousands of Michigan workers, labor leaders, and organizers across the state have been mobilizing and laying the groundwork for this moment. We applaud the House’s swift action to undo the damage caused by Betsy DeVos”—a major Republican campaign cash contributor who became Donald Trump’s Education Secretary—and Republican Govs. “John Engler, Rick Snyder, and their worker suppression agendas.
“Our legislative leaders are delivering on the promises they made and putting power back into the hands of Michigan workers.”
“What choice do you have when the greedy corporations try to put employees against one another in a race to the bottom?” House Majority Leader Abraham Alyash, D-Hamtramck, asked his colleagues.
“Why do folks in here sometimes get so angry that we’re trying to push people out of poverty?”
“Union dues are an important stream of revenue that help pay for critical contract negotiations, staff, and support of members,” said Rep. Regina Weiss, D-Detroit, sponsor of RTW repeal. “When unions have decreased dues, they have less power to improve working conditions.”
Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People’s World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.El galardonado periodista Mark Gruenberg es el director de la oficina de People’s World en Washington, D.C. También es editor del servicio de noticias sindicales Press Associates Inc. (PAI).
If so, you’re among the 94% of American workers who pay into Social Security all year long. Thanks to a loophole that exclusively benefits the super-rich, income above that amount simply isn’t taxed for Social Security.
That means someone like Tucker Carlson, who makes a reported $8 million a year, stopped contributing to Social Security on Jan. 8. Joe Rogan, who reportedly makes $4 million a month, stopped contributing on Jan. 2.
That’s how quickly these high rollers cleared that $160,200 benchmark. But this isn’t even the worst of it.
Many billionaires receive all of their money in the form of bonuses and stock options. Elon Musk is the highest paid CEO in the world, but because none of it is “wage income,” he doesn’t pay a single penny into Social Security.
Right-wing politicians and cable news pundits frequently say that we “can’t afford” Social Security. Their solution? Cut benefits for working people who’ve paid into the program for our entire lives.
They never suggest that we simply require the wealthiest people in America to pay into Social Security all year long, just like the rest of us. If we taxed them like we tax everyone else, we could afford not just to protect our benefits, but expand them.
The Social Security Expansion Act would do just that. This bill would require the wealthy to contribute into Social Security on all their income over $250,000—including investment income. And it would use the additional revenue to increase Social Security benefits and keep the program strong.
Another piece of legislation, Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust, would also lift the cap on Social Security contributions and use the revenue to expand benefits. It had the support of about 90% of House Democrats in the last Congress.
The movement to finally require the wealthy to pay into Social Security all year long isn’t limited to Congress. President Joe Biden campaigned on lifting the cap and using the revenue for targeted benefit expansions.
Polling shows that the idea has widespread support among the public, including 76% of all voters and 65% of Republican voters. Unfortunately, Republican politicians are not listening to their voters.
The Republican Study Committee, a group that counts 156 House Republicans as members, released a budget last year that would make massive cuts to Social Security benefits, including raising the full retirement age to 70. It doesn’t raise one dime of additional revenue from the wealthy.
These politicians are focused on protecting their wealthy donors, who pay less into Social Security than ever. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) recently found that as inequality increases, a record share of all earnings are above the $160,200 cap on Social Security contributions.
In 1983, the last time Congress made major reforms to Social Security, they set the cap at a level that covered 90% of all wage income, leaving only 10% above the cap. By 2021, the percentage of income above that cap had nearly doubled. And that doesn’t even include investment income which, as in Musk’s case, accounts for the bulk of the income of the wealthiest.
EPI estimates that rising inequality has cost the Social Security Trust Fund $1.4 trillion. That’s a massive windfall for the wealthy—and a massive loss for our Social Security system and the millions of Americans who rely on it.
Congress has the power to end this injustice. All it would take is Republican politicians listening to their voters and joining with Democrats to require the wealthy to pay into Social Security on all of their income, just like the rest of us do.
Institute for Policy Studies / OtherWords
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Portrait of composers and producers Bob Cole, James Weldon Johnson, and J. Rosamond Johnson, Jan. 1, 1900, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, New York Public Library (public domain)
On Feb. 12, 1900, the students of the segregated Stanton School in Jacksonville, Fla., where James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938)—the poet and novelist who would go on to become the executive secretary of the NAACP—was the principal, gave the first ever performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the song that would become known as the Black national anthem, as part of a celebration of President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.
“My brother, J. Rosamond Johnson, and I decided to write a song to be sung at the exercise,” Johnson wrote in 1935.
“I wrote the words and he wrote the music. Our New York publisher, Edward B. Marks, made mimeographed copies for us, and the song was taught to and sung by a chorus of five hundred colored schoolchildren.
“Shortly afterwards my brother and I moved from Jacksonville to New York, and the song passed out of our minds. But the school children of Jacksonville kept singing it, they went off to other schools and sang it, and they became teachers and taught it to other children. Within twenty years it was being sung over the South and in some other parts of the country. Today, the song, popularly known as the Negro National Hymn, is quite generally used.
“The lines of this song repay me in an elation, almost of exquisite anguish, whenever I hear them sung by Negro children.”
As Johnson intimates, the song quickly spread after its original performance. It was endorsed by Booker T. Washington in 1905 and became the official song of the NAACP in 1919. Since then, it has remained a beloved cultural touchstone, sung in schools, stadiums, and churches across the country, and performed by everyone from Kim Weston to Gladys Knight to Beyoncé.
“What are we to do with the ugliness that comes with loving a country with soil rich from the bloodshed of those who shoulder the trauma of its creation—from the pillaging of the land to the enslaved bodies that toiled atop it?” wrote Gerrick Kennedy in Didn’t We Almost Have It All. “The answer for Black people was to make their own anthem, and that’s why for the last century ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ has been our rallying cry for liberation and a lasting symbol of Black pride.”
Lift every voice and sing Till earth and heaven ring Ring with the harmonies of Liberty Let our rejoicing rise High as the listening skies Let it resound loud as the rolling sea Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us Facing the rising sun of our new day begun Let us march on till victory is won.
Stony the road we trod, Bitter the chastening rod, Felt in the days when hope unborn had died; Yet with a steady beat, Have not our weary feet Come to the place for which our fathers sighed? We have come over a way that with tears has been watered, We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered, Out from the gloomy past, Till now we stand at last Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.
God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way; Thou who hast by Thy might Led us into the light, Keep us forever in the path, we pray. Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee, Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee; Shadowed beneath Thy hand, May we forever stand. True to our God, True to our native land.
People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.
Drag shows made illegal. The very mention in classrooms that gay people exist outlawed forever. Trans people barred from employment, housing, or even being able to use a public restroom. Parents who seek gender-affirming health care for their kids prosecuted and jailed for child abuse. Black, brown, and Indigenous trans women dead in the back alleys of big cities. Queer nightclubs riddled with bullets and shut down.
That’s the right wing’s vision for the future of LGBTQ people in America. In Congress and statehouses around the country, Republican lawmakers are putting in overtime to legislate queer people out of existence. Every year, they’re shattering records for the number of new anti-gay or anti-trans bills proposed.
Meanwhile, hate-fueled murderers and heavily-armed gunmen are doing the dirty work out in our communities.
If anyone thought liberation was achieved when marriage equality was won, it’s way beyond time to wake up from that illusion. At People’s World, we know the stakes of the battle for queer survival now raging, and we will never shrink from the fight.
Is there anyone else who puts international solidarity up front in covering the news of LGBTQ victories and setbacks around the globe, including countries like Cuba, Vietnam, Japan, Singapore, Indonesia, and more?
And I guarantee you no other newspaper brings you all of that PLUS the latest in commentary, analysis, and history of queer liberation from the Communist Party USA? That’s something you’ll find nowhere else.
So, if you enjoy and value the LGBTQ coverage you find only in People’s World, please consider making a donation today.
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C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People’s World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left. In addition to his work at People’s World, C.J. currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director of ProudPolitics.
Conservatives in the House of Representatives passed a resolution “denouncing the horrors of socialism” and opposing the implementation of socialist policies
On Thursday, February 2, the United States House of Representatives passed a resolution denouncing “the horrors of socialism.” All 219 members of the Republican party voted in favor. Most Democrats did as well, with 109 voting with the Republicans, 86 voting against, and 14 voting “present,” which is effectively an abstention.
At a time when socialism is becoming increasingly popular in the US despite decades of red-baiting and persecution of the left, the House denounced “socialism in all its forms” and further opposed “the implementation of socialist policies in the United States of America.”
The resolution repeated widely-debunked allegations of mass murder in socialist countries and accused the revolutionary processes in Cuba and Venezuela of causing great economic harm to the people while remaining silent on the impact of US sanctions which have been the primary reason for the hardships faced by people in these countries.
“The United States of America was founded on the belief in the sanctity of the individual, to which the collectivistic system of socialism in all of its forms is fundamentally and necessarily opposed,” reads the text.
The resolution was sponsored by Cuban-American representative Maria Elvira Salazar of Miami-Dade County. The resolution is now on its way to the Senate.
This resolution also comes at a time when socialism as an ideology has been gaining popularity in the past few years, while support for the capitalist system is decreasing in popularity. Even among Republicans and Republican-learners aged 18-34, an Axios poll showed that from 2019 to 2021, capitalism has dropped in popularity from 81% to 66%. The percentage of US adults overall with favorable views of socialism increased from 39% to 41% in that same time period
Among the 86 Democrats who voted against the resolution are progressives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Cori Bush, who were all endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America, a large socialist organization in the US. Ilhan Omar, Democratic Representative from Minnesota, also voted against the resolution. Omar was recently voted out of the House Foreign Affairs Committee by the Republican House majority, due to her previous anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist statements.
This resolution comes at a time of crisis for the working class. 34 million people, including nine million children, are food insecure in the United States. According to the Poor People’s Campaign, almost half of people in the US are poor or have low incomes. After a devastating global pandemic, which led to over one million deaths in the US and generated a national recession, the people of the United States were hit by a record-breaking wave of inflation in 2022. In response to this, the Federal Reserve is pushing to slow wage growth, claiming that this will help alleviate the inflation crisis. This is while rents across the country are skyrocketing, and over 40% of tenants are spending more than 30% of their income on rent.
“I think it’s very telling of how threatened establishment politicians are somehow losing their footing, losing their power, really, where they’re positioning themselves to utterly defend a capitalist system that we see has only caused problems,” Karla Reyes, union leader and socialist organizer in New York City, told Peoples Dispatch. “[This is] In contrast to what they could be focusing on, which is the crises that are afflicting the working class in the United States, which include homelessness, and killer cops who are still murdering Black people with complete impunity.”
“[The House is] trying to perpetuate an ideology that, frankly, is getting old,” said Reyes. “Capitalism has looted countries, has poisoned the world, and has created unsustainable lifestyles that push us toward individualism and toward consumerism…socialism is the complete opposite.”
Moderna plans to raise the price of its vaccine from $20.69 to as much as $130 per dose. Pfizer is reportedly planning to do much the same. (Eko Siswono Toyudho / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Originally published in Jacobin on January 2, 2023
With pharma giant Moderna planning to quintuple the price it charges for its COVID vaccines — developed using taxpayer dollars — the case for nationalizing an out-of-control drug industry has never been stronger.
Last month, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel issued a letter to the company’s shareholders effusively touting its accomplishments throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. “As our first approved product,” he wrote of Moderna’s COVID vaccine, “it has impacted hundreds of millions of lives around the world. . . . We are harnessing the power of mRNA to create a new category of medicines and a company that maximizes its impact on human health.”
As the LA Times’ Michael Hiltzik pointed out, a few salient points were absent from Bancel’s lengthy exercise in corporate back-patting — notably the company’s plan to raise the price of its vaccine from $20.69 to as much as $130 per dose. Also missing, though likely not far from the top of Bancel’s mind, was the nearly $20 billion in vaccine-related profits projected late last year — a figure that will rise considerably if the planned price hike goes into effect. Pfizer, which also developed a vaccine using mRNA technology, is reportedly planning to do much the same and similarly reaped a windfall worth tens of billions from its vaccine in 2022.
If nothing else, drug companies may soon rediscover the deep-seated public antipathy they mostly elicited prior to the pandemic. COVID-19 represented an unprecedented PR coup for pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer and Moderna as tribunes of a widely hated industry, whose quickly developed vaccine technologies transformed them from corporate malefactors into chirpy meme fodder in the span of just a few months. Often missed was the role both played in maintaining patent monopolies that slowed down vaccine production. Similarly left out of the story was the extensive role played by the public sector in the development of major COVID vaccines. In the case of Moderna alone, this included not only over a billion in grants from the federal government that sheltered the company from risk but also the untold sums poured into federally funded research concerned with mRNA technology.
Large pharmaceutical companies, in other words, took none of the risks — financial or scientific — necessary to develop vaccines and, not content with their existing billions in profits, are now set to gouge the public even more. As Hiltzik has observed, the recent recommendations of public health officials for annual COVID boosters probably means that the likes of Pfizer and Moderna will be guaranteed a further windfall whose costs will be borne by the public. It’s similarly likely both will continue to funnel billions into stock buybacks that could otherwise be spent on new research.
You would be hard-pressed to find a better illustration of why it’s the height of insanity to leave something as essential as public health to the profit-guided dictates of the market. With even a modicum of sensible regulation and consumer protection in place, much of what pharmaceutical companies have been doing since 2020 would be illegal. Upon taking office, Joe Biden’s administration ignored a golden opportunity to reconfigure existing rules around intellectual property vis-à-vis vaccine patents — also, less surprising, leaving off the table bolder options like the World War II–style nationalization of vaccine production.
It is, however, not too late. If companies remain intent on raising the price of goods likely to remain vital to the protection of public health in the years to come, the federal government should at minimum compel them to open up their patents. A new regulatory framework could also be introduced to restrict profiteering on essential drugs and pharmaceutical products developed on the back of publicly funded research. Alternatively, Big Pharma can be left to its own devices to repeat the current pattern in perpetuity: against the interests of the public and collective health, and to the boundless glee of its unfathomably well-off shareholders.
Editor’s note: The following keynote address to the CPUSA National Committee was presented by CPUSA co-chair Joe Sims on January 14th. It’s been edited to reflect discussion that took place after the report was delivered. It lays out the latest analysis by the Communist Party USA of the political situation in our country, particularly the threat to democracy and the path we need to take in order to combat and defeat the danger the nation faces.
Welcome to this January meeting of our National Committee. As we begin a New Year of struggle, let us pause for a moment to honor those who sadly are no longer with us, but without whom we would never have arrived on these winter shores. Among them are Art Perlo, a member of the National Committee, head of our Economics Commission and leader in the Connecticut district, Betty Smith, longtime head of International Publishers, Richard Castro, veteran leader of the South California District, Gary Hicks, formerly of Boston and long term member of the Northern California District, GL Morrison, Party leader in Portland, Irving Kessler, New York Party member and Cuba solidarity activist, and Esther Davis, veteran member of the Brooklyn club.
We also want to extend our revolutionary condolences to the family, comrades and friends of Charlene Mitchell. As most of us know, after the difficult days of the early 90s, Charlene left the Party, but we worked together with her in later years on the founding of the Black Radical Congress and fighting the right-wing danger, understanding we had more in common than separated us. Let’s take a moment to recall these comrades’ lifelong commitments to the struggle for equality, democracy, working-class power and socialism.
Before moving on we want to recognize another important milestone: the 80th birthday of comrade Margaret Baldridge from Baltimore. A celebration was held in Baltimore honoring Margaret a few weeks ago but unfortunately we were in Minneapolis for a district school and unable to attend. Happy Birthday Margaret! We wish you many more!
Trumpism remains a force
As we meet this Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, the fight against the fascist danger remains front and center. Make no mistake: Trump’s MAGA movement may have been set back in November, but their eyes remain set on the White House door. And they’ve got almost everything they need to unlock it: unlimited dark money; a right-wing media network working overtime; and, most dangerously, a mass movement. Let’s face it: while damaged, the ex-president remains a force.
The MAGA faction of the ruling class and a big chunk of the broader right-wing public still support him. Of course, it’s possible Trump might be replaced by a DeSantis or someone else. But know this: whoever becomes MAGA’s public face and possibly the next president, we should never underestimate the danger they represent. As our party’s program points out, what’s at play here is a grab for control by one section of the capitalist class over all other sections and over society – that’s what January 6th was all about.
Power grabbers miss something
But they’re missing one important thing in this power grab: a majority of the American people. This was proven once again by the midterm elections. Outraged by the Dobbs decision, women and men – but mainly women – along with people of color and supported by labor, limited the GOP’s gains in the House.
That’s important. But let’s be honest: that victory was a big negative. The Republicans will now act as if they have the largest mandate in history. The GOP far right, as Mr. Gaetz from Florida pointed out, now has new Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy in “a straight jacket” — they are now in control. On the other hand, the grassroots mobilization that won the Senate was a big plus. It demonstrated once again, that if called upon, our class and people will respond. Unfortunately over the last two years they were rarely called upon.
The powers-that-be seem content to keep the political struggle confined to debates between elite groups inside the Washington Beltway. There’s a fear of rocking the boat – particularly with national demonstrations – in D.C. during an election year. And what’s true of fear of demonstrations during election cycles, is doubly true with regard to strikes. That’s why the Biden administration violated the railway workers’ right to strike. They were afraid of rocking the economic boat.
Fight for democracy and class struggle
It is in these circumstances that the battle for democracy comes face to face with the class struggle. Yes, there’s a fascist danger and yes consideration must be given to the risks involved in actions taken by sections of the coalition that are fighting the fascist danger. But, it’s a big mistake to cede the people’s ability to make demands and compel concessions by tamping down on national protests or breaking strikes in order to “play it safe.”
The Democratic Party leadership, with one eye cast on the independent vote and the other on their corporate backers, are making political calculations about what they think best serves the national democratic interest. But what’s best for them isn’t necessarily best for us. Why not? What’s best for them is to act in their class interests. They identify their class interest with the interest of the entire nation.
It may be in the interests of the ruling elites to not rock the boat, to not offend bourgeois sensibilities with mass protests and strikes, but the railway workers, women, the LGBTQ community, and people of color may not see it that way. A word of caution here: none of the forces arrayed in the people’s front can afford to take the position of “it’s my way or the highway” – the fascist danger is clear and present. The point here, however, is that if you want to win this fight, you’ve got to mobilize your base. It took a mass movement to win the election, and that’s what it’s going to take going forward. Everyone needs to take this into account.
Now, it’s not that the other side sat on their hands: the January 6th hearings were extremely important. They certainly helped shape the debate and turn the tide. But “air wars” are not enough – they have to be coupled with “battles for position” on the ground. Build Back Better, the child tax credit provision, the changed composition of the National Labor Relations Board were all positives, but the lack of mass demonstrative public pressure to get them passed proved their undoing. The successful pro-union change in the Labor Board was the exception.
Some have already learned this lesson as the re-election victory of Senator Raphael Warnock in Georgia demonstrated. For over a decade, voting rights activists there have been registering voters door-to-door (over one million doors were knocked on) and organizing the turnout. They decided some time ago to break with politics as usual. Others are beginning to take notice — in Wisconsin and a few other places. Things seem to be shifting nationally as well. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have approved automatic voter registration. Other states are planning to follow suit.
Now’s the time to think through our contribution to this movement-building work, that is, on how we can strengthen the People’s Front. That includes making plans for how to get involved in voter registration, ballot initiatives and election campaigns supported by coalition partners. And yes, it also means giving consideration to fielding our own members as candidates. Here’s a radical idea: let’s stop talking about it and take some steps. The Michigan district is organizing a meeting, with comrade Tony, to discuss what it takes to run a campaign. That’s a great idea! Other districts might consider following their example.
Demand for equality is key
The road ahead, without a doubt, is going to be challenging. A recession is coming, and corporations have already started layoffs. Salesforce cut 10% of its workforce, Amazon shed 18,000 jobs, and McDonalds just announced cutbacks. It’s still winter but the class struggle has already started to heat up. In New York, 7,000 nurses hit the bricks this week and won important gains for patient safety, wages and working conditions. In March, the contract expires for 5,000 Caterpillar workers. Illinois get ready! Two hundred thousand postal workers’ contracts are up at the end of May. And get this – the contract for 340,000 workers at UPS is coming up July 31 and the Teamsters are saying to hell with concessions. They’re ready to strike. And then in September, contracts at the Big Three automakers expire for 150,000 autoworkers. Getting rid of the two-tier wage system is a big issue for the UAW.
As workers go out on strike, we should be ready to hit the picket lines with them. In this regard, the Twin Cities club in Minnesota has provided a real model for strike support. Current and upcoming strikes and organizing drives are regularly posted in the club’s Signal chat. Members are organized to join the lines with coffee, donuts and even pizzas. And they’re doing this on a regular basis.
While the class struggle burned red hot, the demand for equality was also at the center of the fire in recent months. In response to alarm at the Dobbs decision, a marriage equality bill was signed into law at the White House in December. This was an important preemptive measure against a potential right-wing attempt to rescind the right to marry. And there’s real reason to worry: the far right has also pledged to step up their attack on trans rights. That must be met head on.
Supreme Court actions are also of great concern. The Court is considering challenges to college affirmative action programs. That case will be decided in June and it’s likely that affirmative action programs in the nation’s colleges and universities will be banned. When the White House tried to get rid of Title 42 which prohibited immigrants, including asylum seekers, from entering the country the Supreme Court blocked it. Legal arguments will be heard by the Court on Title 42 in February.
The ongoing battle against racist policing must also be at the center of our attention. Police murder has set new records since the killing of George Floyd. African Americans are killed at a rate nearly three times that of whites. Despite these horrific figures, calls for police reform have fallen on deaf ears. However, important progress has been made in advancing the demand for civilian control of police departments. In Chicago, a city commission was established after an outstanding campaign led by the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. Chicago’s Empowering Communities for Public Safety Ordinance creates a three-person District Council in each of the city’s 22 police districts. The Councils will be elected in February and we encourage comrades to go Chicago and assist in the campaign’s final days.
Comrades, January 22nd marks the 50th anniversary of Roe: the Supreme Court decision establishing women’s right to abortion care. The coup caucus celebrated it this week by passing an anti-abortion rights bill. Reveling in the Dobbs decision and the GOP House victory, Republicans are now calling for a complete federal ban on abortion.
Now some 20 states are expected to implement abortion bans. However, the fight is far from over. Recently the Biden administration and the FDA approved making abortion pills more widely available – a really important development. In the coming year NARAL, Planned Parenthood and others plan ballot initiatives in 10 states, among them Arizona, Florida, Ohio and Missouri. Clearly we should get involved in these campaigns in every way possible, including signature gathering.
Combatting male supremacy a must
This should not be seen as a “women’s issue.” What fighting racism is to the battle for equality for people of color, combating male supremacy is to women’s equality. We need to convince our male comrades that it is their special responsibility to champion the fight for reproductive rights. And the reality is that many of us don’t get it. A case in point: in a few instances some comrades declined to participate in the pro-choice marches because, they said, the actions were initiated by what they called the “bourgeois” women’s movement. Can you imagine? Hundreds of thousands of women in the streets around the country, fighting for the most basic of democratic rights, and some of us refused to participate!
We’ve got to deepen our understanding of the Marxist approach to women’s equality. The oppression of all women is a product of the early rise of classes; the oppression of all women is organically linked to the rise of class oppression; the capitalist class benefits from the oppression of all women through the promotion of cultural and social inequality, domination, and control, including the active cultivation of misogyny. Capitalism also benefits from the exploitation of working-class women where extra profits are reaped through employment segregation, lower-wages, and the so-called second shift where working-class women also engage in various forms of unpaid labor. This is the basis of the sexist social division of labor. Women of color also face exploitation based on race and nationality resulting in three forms of oppression under capitalism: class, gender and race.
This requires all working-class forces to increase their capacity to demonstrate a conscious understanding of and allegiance with all women in the democratic fight for full equality. Achieving this means confronting sexual harassment. It means confronting the horror of domestic violence. It means understanding and responding to the myriad challenges working-class women face. And we don’t do it from the curb – but from the middle of the street where the masses have gathered in struggle.
Understanding need for democracy
All of this argues for updating and deepening our understanding of the battle for democracy. That understanding is vital for moving forward in the present moment. It’s imperative in the struggle for the socialist future. As our Party Program makes clear, “The struggle to defend and enlarge democracy in every realm of life is therefore the only path to socialism in our country.” But what is meant by democracy? The GOP far right, Mitch McConnell included, paints anything to the left of Ronald Reagan as a symptom of anti-democratic socialism. The Democratic Party center, not to be outdone, uses the label “authoritarian” to falsely paint left and far-right as alike.
The main threat to democracy comes from the most right-wing section of our ruling class.
Biden’s Cold War 2.0 is a case in point. But pardon me, Mr. Biden, in this multipolar world, the main threat to democracy comes from the most right-wing section of our ruling class, not somebody else’s. We know who attacked the Capitol on January 6th and who, just the other day, hijacked the U.S. House. And we know who paid for it: Lockheed, Comcast, and Walmart. And we also know that the U.S. has done more than its part to contribute to the rise in international tensions and that there’s a two-party consensus for doing so.
Take the situation with China and Russia. The two countries cooperate economically and have a defensive alliance. This is the result not of ideological alignment – nothing could be further from the case – but rather a perceived self-interest and desire to survive after being encircled, sanctioned and tariffed nearly to death. U.S. imperialism wants to impose its version of what it calls “democracy” – meaning capitalism. It plans to do so by means of economic pressure, or force, or a combination of both. But imperialism’s version of democracy is not the be-all and end-all of democratic practice. Cuba, Vietnam, and Venezuela have chosen different paths. Whether they employ single or multi-party systems, each was born out of their country’s history and the conditions under which their revolutions occurred.
It is not for us in the U.S. to decide which form of government other countries choose. Rather, we must insist on creating conditions under which all are able to make choices free of outside interference.
Challenges of the peace movement
Creating those conditions means staying the hand of imperialism by building a mass movement for peace. That’s a difficult proposition in today’s circumstances. It’s rendered even more challenging by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Responses to the Ukraine war have split the U.S. (and world) peace movement in several different directions, with some supporting U.S. policy, others defending Russia’s actions, and still others seeing the conflict as a proxy war between the U.S. and Russia. Our position has been to oppose and condemn the invasion and call for a ceasefire and negotiations. Ukraine has a right to exist as a sovereign state. Unfortunately, an October call for negotiations by progressive Democrats was quickly retracted after strong White House objection – a mass peace movement might have changed that. A meeting or conference of party peace activists this year will start an important process of thinking through specific steps we can take, understanding it’s going to be a long and difficult process.
Building the party
But if we carry out our work properly, not only will a stronger peace movement emerge, but so will a larger and stronger Communist Party. Everything is pointing in this direction. Some 6,000 people have applied to join the Party over the last two years, one-third of whom are paying dues.
2022 was a very good year. We completed the People’s World’s fund drive, brought close to 400 members to DC to participate in the Poor People’s March, were active in the fall election campaign and established a regular public presence in a number of states. We held regular educational seminars, online festival for People’s World on May Day and a well-attended International Conference. Last year we were able to build multi-club districts in seven additional states. New York, Texas, Southern California, Northern California, Eastern Pennsylvania and Connecticut already had a number of clubs in their states. In another 17 states, single clubs with members scattered around the state were either created or maintained.
A big achievement has been the growth of local Young Communist League (YCL) clubs in New York, DC, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Eastern Pennsylvania and Connecticut. In Kentucky and DC there are a couple of clubs located on college campuses.
In DC we have to congratulate the work of the Claudia Jones School, our first public Marxist school in the recent period. It’s doing an outstanding job in bringing the science of society to the broader public involving not only our thinkers but others as well. That said, we are still very much in the rebuilding stage of growing the party. If we were to compare it to building a house, we would have to say while we have a blueprint and have laid a solid foundation, we’re still very much on the ground floor.
We are still very much in the rebuilding stage of growing the party.
For example, while we welcome the Party’s rapid growth, we also have to acknowledge that a considerable section of the new membership have yet to receive an orientation as to our basic principles and concepts. In the next several months, at the initiative of the Education Department, we’re taking steps to remedy this situation. Weekend district schools will focus on the Party’s program.
While improving, the multiracial and gender composition of the party remains weak. Cis women are joining in far fewer numbers than cis men, though the non-binary and trans membership has grown. In the recent period, the influence of male supremacy has become increasingly apparent, particularly but not only, in online spaces, where men aggressively dominate the conversation, bully and dismiss women’s opinions. We’ve got to ask ourselves why are these patterns persisting? Why are so few women joining? And after joining, how many are sticking around? What is it about our public presence, both in person and online, that the masses of women are not responding to?
Comrades Rossana, Dee, Rebecca and Lisa and others in the next weeks will take steps to convene a communist women’s collective with the aim of holding a conference out of which we hope to form a Women’s Commission. As we move forward and improve our work in this vital arena, we call on our male comrades to examine what we’ve done and haven’t done to contribute to this situation.
At the last convention we developed a sexual harassment policy and it’s stood us in good stead. As the Party continues to grow, our upholding of respectful and principled relationships, particularly with younger comrades, is a must. Party guidance and mentorship is essential, but in no case should it give license to inappropriate overtures or harassment – that’s deadly and the damage can be permanent.
Going forward, the National Committee has a three-fold task: to stay focused on fighting the fascist danger; to continue building the party; and to lay the political, ideological and organizational basis for the next convention. With regard to the fascist danger, our goal must be to expose, organize and take initiatives. People’s World and cpusa.org are doing a wonderful job in continuing to shine a spotlight on this threat. Part of our expose must be to continue to reveal the corporate ties to the coup caucus and its sedition. And speaking of sedition, shouldn’t we actively support a demand to prosecute those responsible? This is too important an issue to leave to the sole discretion of the courts and Justice Department. Are there already campaigns on the issue, petitions, memes, protests? If not, shouldn’t we help initiate them?
Fundraising also remains an essential task in the year ahead. Long View, the publisher of People’s World has set a $200,000 goal this year – a must-do amount to stay in the black. Failure to make that goal is simply not an option.
With respect to the convention, as the summer and fall approach, collectives will have to be established to find a location, propose a date, as well as make initial plans concerning resolutions, the constitution and possibly the Party program.
Next year we’re sure to have a great convention that will help consolidate our current achievements and lay the basis for what we want the Communist Party to become: a mass party, a militant party of revolutionary working-class struggle, a party of initiative that fights for the unity of our class and people. We’re building an anti-sexist, anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-fascist party, a party of consistent working-class democracy and peace.
This is a party led by women, by African Americans, Latinos, Asians, Middle Eastern, Native American and working-class white Americans, immigrant and citizen, documented and undocumented, straight and LGBTQ. We are building an internationalist party based on the best traditions of the American people. We defend what’s best in our multi-racial, multinational country, weaving together a mosaic of song and dance, prose and poem, film and play. We understand that the social revolution, at the end of the day, is a grand festival of the people. And make no mistake: we are a Marxist-Leninist party of social revolution, fighting for an American model of Bill of Rights Socialism, made in the USA.
Joe Sims is co-chair of the Communist Party USA. He is also a senior editor of People’s World and loves biking.
In spite of the huge public attention on police violence since 2020, every year cops kill more and more people
The year 2022 was the deadliest year on record in the United States for fatalities at the hands of law enforcement. According to the Washington Post’s police shootings database, law enforcement officers shot and killed 1,096 people last year. In comparison, there were 1,048 shooting fatalities at the hands of police the year before, 1,019 the year before that, 997 the year before that, and so on.
These numbers are most likely underestimated. According to Abdul Nasser Rad, managing director of research and data at Mapping Police Violence, the Post “only captures incidents where a police officer discharges their firearm and the victim is killed.” This means that it doesn’t count events like the 2014 killing of Eric Garner in New York and the 2020 killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, as both deaths resulted from asphyxiation.
In contrast, Mapping Police Violence includes any action that a law enforcement officer takes that results in a fatal encounter. For example, Rad’s project concluded that police killed 1,158 people in 2021 compared to the Post’s figure of 1,048 (final results for 2022 are not yet available).
There are other databases of police violence like Fatal Encounters, run by the University of Southern California, that have their own criteria for counting police-related killings. Such projects track police violence because the federal government refuses to, in spite of a 1994 law requiring the Justice Department to keep records. Moreover, there is evidence that biased reporting by medical examiners and coroners in individual cases is helping significantly to cover up the extent of police violence.
The upshot is that in spite of the huge public attention on police violence since 2020, every year cops kill more and more people. We can expect 2023 to be even deadlier if the years-long trend continues.
Another clear conclusion is that police violence is dramatically focused on communities of colour. According to the Washington Post, Black Americans “are killed by police at more than twice the rate of White Americans,” while Mapping Police Violence finds that “Black people are 2.9x more likely to be killed by police than white people in the US.” Police killings of Latinos and Indigenous people are similarly disproportionate.
Recall that in the aftermath of Floyd’s murder in 2020 at the hands of officer Derek Chauvin, activists demanded a defunding of the police. The well-documented assumption underlying that demand was that generously funded police departments were using their resources to kill people, especially poor people of colour whose needs in turn were not being funded.
Rad explains that the disproportionate police killings of people of colour are “due to historical disinvestment and how the US state has used punitive and carceral responses to social problems, specifically to Black and Brown communities.” Therefore, the only just conclusion is to divert tax revenues from fueling death to fueling life.
Instead of city governments embracing the life-affirming idea of diverting money away from murderous police, media pundits and politicians led a reactionary backlash. President Joe Biden, in a clear clapback at the defund movement, promised to fund the police, and even begged local governments to use federal stimulus funds to bolster their police departments in 2022.
In Minneapolis, which became the focus of international attention in the wake of Floyd’s murder, lawyers Doug Seaton and James Dickey opined in a piece titled “Minneapolis Needs a Fully-Funded Police Department,” that “the city’s most vulnerable… have suffered from” the demand to defund police. One might conclude that Minneapolis’ police are struggling for funding, but in fact more than a third of the city’s entire general fund is poured into police coffers. Mother Jones’ Eamon Whalen rightly concluded that “The Police Are Defunding Minneapolis.”
According to Rad, “In 2022, funding actually continued to increase across US cities into law enforcement agencies.” He adds, “what might be the media narrative actually doesn’t match up to what is actually going on.”
Does giving police more money result in greater public safety, as Seaton and Dickey claim, and as Biden assumes? One recent study analyzing funding of hundreds of police departments over nearly three decades concluded that “new police budget growth is likely to do one thing: increase misdemeanor arrests.”
One of the study’s authors, Brenden Beck, a sociology professor at the University of Colorado Denver, writing in Slate about his team’s results, said, “The trend was clear: When cities decreased the size of their police departments, they saw fewer misdemeanor arrests and when they increased them, they saw more.”
According to Beck, “misdemeanor enforcement is concentrated in poor neighborhoods and in communities of colour.” He is confident that, “One thing… [increased police funding] is likely to do, even if paired with community policing, is generate more misdemeanor arrests. Arrests that will disproportionately hurt poor and Black people.”
It is during such arrests that police tend to kill Black and Brown people. Those cities that specifically took steps to reduce arrests for petty crimes saw a decrease in police killings, according to data scientist and cofounder of Campaign ZeroSamuel Sinyangwe. He also concluded that crime rates in those cities did not increase.
There is so much data bolstering the fact that more police funding means more violence and death at the hands of police. And yet, police departments remain flush with cash.
How can we simply accept that police will continue to kill more and more people each year?
Not everyone accepts this deadly status quo. In spite of the backlash, police abolitionists are continuing to organize. They have created a powerful internet tool, DefundPolice.org, to help communities put police spending into perspective and reimagine their city budgets. The site includes a detailed video tutorial on how to use tools like a “people’s budget calculator.”
It’s not enough to call out police when they kill people. It’s not enough to march in the streets or write op-eds. Police will continue to murder more people every year with impunity, their violence nurtured by powerful allies. If we want to see a significant reversal to the ruthless march of police savagery, we’re going to need to put our money where our mouths are: toward people’s needs, not police’s deadly deeds.
Sonali Kolhatkar is an award-winning multimedia journalist and the host and producer of Uprising, a popular, daily, drive-time program on KPFK, Pacifica Radio in Los Angeles. She is also co-director of the Afghan Women’s Mission, a US-based non-profit organization that works with the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA).
This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.