Friday, June 24, 2011

old comrade.

Dick Adams - Communist Candidate for Shelby County (TN) Sheriff in 1932.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

new blog / new look.

We at the Memphis CPUSA Club have changed web addresses and dressed up the blog a little bit.  Please check back as we plan on having an increased number of blog posts.  Thanks!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A speech by comrade Blake P. on the Cuban Five

"What does it mean to be free? In our world which has so often seen freedom destroyed in its own name, we've been given plenty of answers. According to many of our leaders, to be free from terrorists is to harass Arab-Americans. It is to stereotype Muslims and to infiltrate places of worship. In other words, to save ourselves from terrorism, they tell us that we must in turn terrorize one another. To be free from invasion and foreign conquest, they tell us, we must in turn invade and conquer nations from Korea and Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq. To make sure an empire never rises, we must become that empire.

So we are told. But I don't believe it. I don't think you do, either.

I once spoke about flag desecration. How the most repugnant form of flag desecration is to plant our nation's banner over burning homes and demolished nations. Today I want to say it again. Our flag is being desecrated. And out of all the blockades, wars, smears, and acts of repression, there is one I want to speak about in detail, and that is the case of the Cuban Five.

From it's beginning, revolutionary Cuba has faced the worst brand of terrorism and hostility against her. Her economy is in a choke-hold and her people are poor from fifty years of a unanimously condemned trade embargo. She has been subject to the worst smears and slander on the part of her enemies. And she has faced terrorism, genuine terrorism, from hostile forces based in Miami.

In 1976, a CIA-backed plot executed by Luis Posada and Orlando Bosch, among others, succeeded in freeing 73 people aboard a Cuban plane from communism, by freeing them from their lives. US intelligence records confirmed having knowledge of the plan's conception before it was carried out, but declined to act on it. Today, Bosch lives comfortably on our own soil, while Posada faces prosecution, not for his heinous act of mass-murder, but for entering the country illegally. There are no plans to bring either to justice

Having suffered so many of these attacks, the people of Cuba fought back. And coming to the call were five men. Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González, and René González. These were men with families. The were fathers. Husbands. Soldiers. In the 1990's they volunteered to infiltrate and report on anti-Cuban terrorist groups in Miami, providing Cuba with the information it needed to keep its people safe. But in 1998, the five were arrested and put in a kangaroo court, to stand trial for the viscous misdeed of resisting mass murder. All five were convicted and are being held in various prisons across the country on life sentences, away from there families, friends, and homes for thirteen years. They receive no uncensored mail, two have not even seen their wives since their arrest, and all have endured the brutality of our prison system in the form of solitary confinement and mistreatment in spite of spotless conduct behind bars. Perhaps to defend justice, we must engage in injustice? Is this what our leaders would tell us?

I still don't believe that.

If we are to call our nation the land of the free. If we are to declare our country to be governed by democracy and the rule of law. If we are to be a refuge for peacemakers and freedom fighters worldwide, we must remove the plank from our own eye before removing sawdust from another. We can stand on a platform and criticize other nations, but I'm ready for self-criticism. I'm ready to make real the promise, make true the dream, make right the wrong! Before I ask China to release her political prisoners, I want to free ours. Because when it comes to human rights, charity starts at home. Free the five."

The Communist Party of the United States of America condemns the bombings in Libya


The Communist Party of the USA deplores the attacks by U.S., French and British forces against Libya. With the projection of power by U.S. and other NATO governments, the crisis that was initiated by the government of Libya when its security forces opened fire on unarmed demonstrators calling for democratization stands a chance of turning into a full fledged civil war with sustained imperialist intervention.

With a bold, self-serving interpretation of the U.N. Security Council's vote on March 17, several member states of NATO, including the United States, the United Kingdom and France, have begun an air and sea bombardment of Libya, increasing the danger of civilian and military casualties on all sides, and threatening the integrity of Libya as a sovereign nation in control of its own resources.

While French and British jets have pounded away at Libyan targets, the United States in the first day hit Libya with at least 100 ship-launched tomahawk missiles, with no end in sight.

In spite of the all-too-evident crimes and abuses of Gadaffi's regime, a civil war with massive foreign intervention is not in the interests of the either the Libyan or the American people, or humanity in general, which is served only by peace and cooperation among the nations. The Middle East area is one of the most conflict-ridden and unstable in the world, and there is real danger that a civil war in Libya could lead to a wider conflagration.
This situation needs to be deescalated, also, because of the bad precedent it sets for NATO and/or U.S. intervention in situations of internal conflict all over the world. We have only to recall the situations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia to perceive how such military interventions, carried out under humanitarian pretexts, end up causing more death, suffering and destruction than the situations they were supposed to remedy.
In its recent meeting in Lisbon, Portugal, NATO announced to the world that it would be projecting armed force well beyond the "North Atlantic" area. Clearly, the purpose of this force is neither defensive nor humanitarian, but rather serves the economic interests of the wealthy capitalist countries and multinational corporations.
To understand the hypocrisy of the current attack campaign, we have only to ask: Why no intervention in any of the other Middle East countries ruled by tyrants and currently undergoing popular uprisings? Why not in Yemen, or Bahrain?

We are of the opinion that the special interest on the part of imperialism in intervening in Libya can only relate to the politics of oil. Libya is a major supplier of oil to several of the NATO countries (especially to Italy), and has run its own nationalized oil production since 1969.

The current uprising in Libya is centered in the Eastern part of the country, where a large proportion of Libya's oil production is also to be found. For the NATO powers to end up in substantial control of Libya's oil production, even if it is not privatized into the hands of multinational corporations, might have an impact on things like OPEC production quotas.

As it is, the instability in Libya is contributing to a rise in oil prices that affects us in the United States as well.
In addition, the fall of client regimes of Tunisia and Egypt, and the shakiness being experienced by others in the region such as Bahrain, Yemen, Morocco and others, weakens the influence of imperialism in this vital area. We can't exclude the possibility that imperialism sees the Libya crisis as a means to restoring part of its influence in the Middle East.

Several states and international organizations, some of which voted for the Security Council Resolution, or abstained when they might have voted "no" or even vetoed it, are now having second thoughts about the wisdom of the actions currently being taken. China, Russia, Turkey, India and the Arab League, as well as the Bolivarian Alliance countries in Latin America have all criticized the attacks on Libya.

We hope that the U.S. government, which was not originally enthusiastic about taking military action to create a no-fly zone in Libya, will have such second thoughts also.
Therefore, the CPUSA calls for:
  1. An immediate cease-fire by all parties concerned (the Libyan government, the insurgents and outside powers), to be monitored by neutral forces.
  1. A negotiated settlement which preserves Libya's national sovereignty and control of its natural resources, especially its oil and gas reserves and production, while answering the demands of the Libyan people for a democratic transformation of their society and political system, and an end to repression of dissent.
  1. Protection for the safety of vulnerable sections of the population of Libya, including foreign migrant workers trapped in a situation not of their making.
  1. International action to permit the exit from Libya of refugees whose survival is threatened by the current situation, plus access to humanitarian aid for all areas of Libya, and the restoration of electrical, internet and other services.
  1. Support by all progressive people for the struggle of the Libyan people for labor rights, free and democratic elections, freedom of speech, press and association and an end to repression.

"What's the Problem with Secession?"

A fascinating article by Dennis Laumann, detailing the issue of secession as it pertains to the southern Sudanese. It's truly a fantastic read.  Read it here.

Shouldering Our Burdens.

Shouldering Our Burdens
By Glenn R.

The following report regarding the current “name change” debate was submitted on January 15, 2011, to the newly-founded Memphis Club of the CPUSA and unanimously accepted by its members as the group’s position on the question of name change for the Party.

In “Living in an Era of Change,” C. J. Atkins makes a disarmingly gentle, yet muddled case for name change. After an opening congratulatory appraisal of the Party’s past 20 years (of successfully avoiding name change while remaining politically dynamic), he proposes that the Party not only drop its “Communist” label, but its self-definition as a party. He makes this recommendation while failing to convince that the Party does not act like a party, based on his assumptions that a party, by definition, must independently present its own candidates in the electoral process. In other words, the CPUSA does not act like a “party,” as other parties (the Green Party, SPUSA, and other “third” parties), since it does not encourage its members to reject the Democratic Party, in favor of their own alternative candidates. Therefore, like the DSA, the CPUSA is for the moment largely a think-tank organization that helps its members become part of the broader coalition movement for progressive change. However, the CPUSA has since its inception been in favor of both putting candidates forward when this was practical and supporting the Democratic Party when not, in addition to organizational work for broad social movements outside the electoral process. In this way, it has stayed close to Lenin’s justification of participating in the electoral process while simultaneously working to undermine the class domination that doggedly polices the current process. Why tie the Party’s hands by narrowing its range of activities, when it can sometimes be an organizing social force and, at other times, a party that is prepared for an electoral breakthrough should any such opportunity arise in the future?

Of course, it is this last condition that Atkins completely denies as possible, largely because the label “communist” is not acceptable, and never will be, to the vast majority of Americans. It is a brand name “sullied beyond reprieve.” Thus, the two conditions arguing against the Party remaining a “party” are: (1) its current retention of the label “Communist” and (2) the fact that America has a two-party system that makes it historically unlikely a successful third party will ever arise. As for the second point, we can agree that the restrictions of the two-party system (plus the failed attempts at campaign finance reform) have shifted the odds against change coming anytime soon, especially given the failed attempts of Ralph Nader and the Green Party on the Left and Ross Perot’s Independent Reform Party on the Right. However, one cannot see that far into the future to know for certain. Besides that, the fact that America once had more than two parties and that the debate is still taking place nationally bodes well for the possibility of future reform in this respect. So I return to my original question: why tie our hands to the potential range of activities open to us given this uncertainty and the possibility of the situation changing (even possibly in the near future)?

The thorny issue of the label “communist” may take longer to clear up. As Atkins rightly states, we have to admit that communism still remains unpopular in American politics, despite twenty years after the collapse of the first workers’ state, the Soviet Union, and a good-faith effort by Gorbachev (and other reformers) to recast both its political and economic processes to meet the demands of the post-industrial age. The associations with Stalinist crimes persist, but this is analogous to the histories of other parties and institutions (like the tradition of the Democratic Party in the Southern U.S., and the Catholic Church) that survived precisely because they could, and did, change. We have to make the case for our changes not by running from the past, a maneuver that, as some have commented, none will accept as legitimate, but by looking forward and making change-in-perception contingent on our future actions, successes (and, yes, failures). We should courageously address the past, continuously analyze it in historical context, and keep taking concrete steps in future actions that render the past not invisible, but irrelevant to present conditions. Also, if we jettison our name (and necessarily the historical tradition that comes with it), others will seize it, and we will lose the right to defend the positive changes that were also part of that experience. We cannot have it both ways.

Of course, one could argue that communism is to socialism what Cromwell’s republic was to later, Western-style democracy, and go for the simple adoption of “socialist” as part of the new name. However, there are so many groups (and media pundits) already bandying that label about that it would also demand much preliminary discussion, in order to newly differentiate our Party. In the comment section of Atkins’ article, Charles Kyger relates how someone was more horrified by the designation “socialist” than “communist” in a discussion about his political views. This can only be explained by the recent extensive tarnishing of “socialism” by Tea-Party critics of Obama’s policies that has been kept in constant “feed-loop” by the corporate media.
These exact points about the shared problems with socialism, Marxism, and labor politics serve as the jumping-off point for Joe Sims’ rebuttal to Atkins’ arguments, in “Extreme Makeover Goes Too Far.” Sims points out that there are three main cases against Atkins’ proposals: (1) the organizational tasks of an avowedly Marxist party, (2) the need to underscore and champion the independence of politically conscious working-class elements, and (3) the “historical precedents” that played such a huge role in our current stage of development. With regard to the role of a Marxist party, Sims concedes that it must work in concert with other working-class and people’s coalitions under the umbrella of the Democratic Party, to do otherwise would be self-defeating. However, as Sims also stresses, electoral work cannot be the sole task of a Marxist party, whose responsibilities include developing working-class solidarity and strengthening its socialist consciousness. This latter part includes the primary role of contact with working-class groups and telling them something about who we are, both past and present. Here, as others have pointed out in the reply section, we must re-emphasize reading and discussion of classic works of Marxist-Leninist thought, as well as current party literature (Political Affairs, People’s World, etc.). But more fundamental than that, we have to understand that the Party works in contact with the broad currents of the Democratic Party machine in both a spirit of tactical cooperation and ideological, political disagreement and (ultimately) antagonism. In other words, we must maintain a dialectical spirit of struggle in our thinking and scope of action in working within the main party system.

This insistence leads to the other point made by Sims, which is that the Party must always safeguard and struggle against any encroachment by the Democratic Party machinery on the political independence of the working-class and its specific class interests in participating within broader coalitions. As examples of groups that lost their organizational integrity in past coalitions, he cites the experiences of Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition, the New America Movement, and the New Democratic Movement. As a positive example of a party successfully working within Democratic coalitions, Sims points to the experience of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ promotion as a successful candidate of the Vermont Progressive Party. Thus, for Sims, maintaining an independent party structure, rather than deflating that structure into an incoherent and impressionable “organization,” makes tactical sense especially when working with other progressive groups alongside the Democratic Party.

As for understanding the Party’s historical precedents, Sims takes issue with Atkins’ negative assessment of past “dogmatic” Marxist-Leninist doctrine. Pointing out that there is a significant body of critical, non-dogmatic work under the rubric of Marxism-Leninism, Sims calls Atkins’ dismissive characterization of this body of thought “unfortunate.” I am inclined to agree. We have to be careful not to generalize about the Marxist-Leninist tradition, and do the hard critical legwork of distinguishing the worthy bodies of literature and thought from the chaff. In closing, Sims insists that the forces that have contributed most to the tarnishing of communism have to do with the specific anti-communist tradition sustained by the Ultra-Right within the U.S. However, I agree with others who have also pointed out that this tarnishing of communism cannot be solely, or even mainly, attributed to the forces of anti-communism, since other groups favorably disposed within the American Left often hesitate in openly associating with the Communist brand. This has to be accepted and understood as part of the ongoing legacy of mistakes and political failures inextricably bound up with the Soviet past.

This last point is one of the two main points that Dan Margolis presents to take issue with Sims’ presentation and to endorse Atkins’ position, in his responding article “What’s in a Name?” He opens his article congratulating both authors for maintaining a cordial exchange, by attacking ideas, not people, but oddly dispenses with the affectionate and brotherly address “comrade” (with which this author shares a particular fondness). That aside, the two mistakes that Margolis sees with Sims’ presentation are: (1) confusing the problems with the negative connotations of communism with anti-communism and (2) that the changes that Atkins proposes do not go as far as Sims suggests. With the first point, I agree, but with the second point, as is clear from the foregoing, I disagree. Margolis sees nothing wrong with Atkins’ position, which he completely endorses, namely that the CPUSA should drop its “Communist” label and no longer call itself a “party.”

In presenting his case against retaining the communist label, Margolis is far more unsparing than Atkins by going into more sustained enumeration of the crimes of former and present “Communist” regimes, and the need to affirm unreservedly the inalienable nature of human rights. Then, he goes on a long excursus of how unnecessary a defense of the communist past (and present) should be for anyone seeking to fully participate in the current political situation. He claims that Sims fails to demonstrate that group integrity dissolved in the examples of groups, like the Rainbow Coalition, the New America Movement, and the New Democratic Movement, that worked in contact with the Democratic Party machinery. I agree that more discussion needs to be presented by Sims on this point, especially since no background is provided for these experiences. However, it does not take any stretch of the imagination to understand why working with a powerful party machinery, like that of the Democratic Party, might pose fatal problems for loosely-defined and inarticulate organizations, whose members often get lost in its iron maw.

However, back to Margolis’ point about the communist past. I don’t think that we can discard that past so easily through name change as he suggests. It is not enough to anticipate only Glenn Beck and other right-wing media pundits in addressing this issue. The Party has plenty of rivals on the Left who would also seize upon the surrendering of the term “communist,” as an opportunity to demand of former-CP members why remain part of an ex-party that merely reproduces their strategies and tactical formation, one that they have carried out longer. Wouldn’t we risk becoming redundant with say the DSA, by being only an organization working within the Democratic Party and going by the designation “democratic socialist”? How would we be setting ourselves apart from them? Furthermore, other parties, such as the SPUSA, would pick off those members convinced of “going it alone,” by consistently pushing independent candidates in the electoral process. Surrendering “communism” would hand the other left groups an unearned moral victory, a “told you so” moment that would severely weaken, not strengthen the newly designated organization. Margolis fails to even address these concerns.

In closing, the only route that seems defensible is to accept the long and difficult path of rebuilding the Party’s reputation, especially when everyone left of center shares a broad deficit of popular support in America. But we all recognize that this situation is fluid and that the current economic recession and two failed, unpaid-for wars should also keep the Right no less broken and on the defensive, if we continue to hammer these points home. However, we can do that most effectively by sustaining our name and organizational structure within the current hysterical climate of irrational taunts raining down from the Ultra-Right, on everyone left unconvinced of Reagan’s “revolution.” That’s why the Memphis Club of the CPUSA remains committed to being part of a Communist Party, in a long, ongoing, and internationally recognized effort to recast human relations, first envisioned by Marx and Engels and shaped by the best laborers of that tradition.