What We Stand For

The Communist Party of Indiana CPUSA struggles for socialism: to better the lives of Indiana's working families, to protect and extend labor's ability to organize, for the needs of women, children, immigrants (documented and undocumented), the disabled, LGBT, and all people who strive for affordable quality health care, housing, and education. We stand against racism in all its forms. We stand for jobs for all. We stand for peace. We support all who struggle world wide for the dignity and self-determination of the majority of their nation's people and against imperialism, occupation, and exploitation for private profit.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What is going on?

Today's New York Times (NYT) is reporting that GM told the federal government it needs
to increase its loan request to $30 billion, $12 billion more than it had initially sought, to avoid a bankruptcy filing.
At the same time GM announced it
planned to cut 47,000 jobs out of a total of 244,000 around the world by the end of the year. About 20,000 of the job losses will come in the United States, as well as five more plant closings beyond those previously announced.
What is the point of a bailout during a fiscal crisis that results in tens of thousands of jobs lost? The only way to approach the fiscal crisis is to think in terms of the actual lives of working families. Ridiculous paper bailouts that provide billions to corporations so they can be on a better footing for their rich investors while slashing jobs is a travesty of the crisis that is devastating the lives of millions of working people today.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Comforting the comfortable while afflicting the afflicted

According to the NY Times (http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/02/04/business/20090205-bailout-totals-graphic.html) the government has already actually dispersed $2 trillion, and made commitments of $8.8 trillion in trying to respond to the fiscal crisis.

The way the money was committed:

$4.6 trillion: The Government As Investor
$2.4 trillion: The Government As Lender
$1.8 trillion: The Government As Insurer

Jobs saved=0

A.I.G. alone received commitments of $53 billion.
Bear Stearns alone received commitments of $29 billion.

35% of the new "stimulus" bill passed is tax breaks that will help the rich.

See the Krugman pieces below. Its stark. As Krugman points out:

Will those public-private partnerships end up being a covert way to bail out bankers at taxpayers’ expense? Or will the required “stress test” act as a back-door route to temporary bank nationalization (the solution favored by a growing number of economists, myself included)? Nobody knows.

I don't know. I don't have the stomach yet to read the bill.

Krugman, in Obama on nationalization, the second article below, says:

Nationalization is actually as American as apple pie.

What threatens to be the abject failure of the Obama administration to produce a viable and realistic plan to address the fiscal crisis is at its heart the result of his lack of a class struggle outlook and focus on bipartisanship, which objectively undermines working class interests.

Again, I'll quote Paul Krugman from The Destructive Center, attached below.

All in all, the centrists’ insistence on comforting the comfortable while afflicting the afflicted will, if reflected in the final bill, lead to substantially lower employment and substantially more suffering.

But how did this happen? Is President Obama’s belief that he can transcend the partisan divide — a belief that results in warping his economic strategy - a sound basis for dealing with the fiscal crisis?

After all, many people expected Mr. Obama to come out with a really strong stimulus plan, reflecting both the economy’s dire straits and his own electoral mandate.

Instead, however, he offered a plan that was clearly both too small and too heavily reliant on tax cuts. Why? Because he wanted the plan to have broad bipartisan support, and believed that it would. Not long ago administration strategists were talking about getting 80 or more votes in the Senate.

We are asked to be grateful that something, anything, was done to address the fiscal crisis. The whole discussion around dealing with the criris, and its focus on the institutions of wage slavery (banks, mortgage vendors, insurers, and other rotten meat clinging to the terminally ill body of the capitalist vulture), is wrong.

We need as a society to focus on the needs of working families. Let the bankers drown in their red ink. Working families have mouths to feed and homes to warm.

To reiterate:

Nationalization is actually as American as apple pie.

There are different types of nationalization. The best reform response to the current fiscal crisis is to nationalize the structures of the economy and bring them under centralized and democratic control of the government. In the end, socialism is the only real solution to this crisis, and the ones that will follow as long as we wallow in the morass of capitalism, a system that is out of tune with its own productive forces and the needs of the people who must survive its inequities.

February 13, 2009
Op-Ed Columnist
Failure to Rise
By any normal political standards, this week’s Congressional agreement on an economic stimulus package was a great victory for President Obama. He got more or less what he asked for: almost $800 billion to rescue the economy, with most of the money allocated to spending rather than tax cuts. Break out the Champagne!

Or maybe not. These aren’t normal times, so normal political standards don’t apply: Mr. Obama’s victory feels more than a bit like defeat. The stimulus bill looks helpful but inadequate, especially when combined with a disappointing plan for rescuing the banks. And the politics of the stimulus fight have made nonsense of Mr. Obama’s postpartisan dreams.

Let’s start with the politics.

One might have expected Republicans to act at least slightly chastened in these early days of the Obama administration, given both their drubbing in the last two elections and the economic debacle of the past eight years.

But it’s now clear that the party’s commitment to deep voodoo — enforced, in part, by pressure groups that stand ready to run primary challengers against heretics — is as strong as ever. In both the House and the Senate, the vast majority of Republicans rallied behind the idea that the appropriate response to the abject failure of the Bush administration’s tax cuts is more Bush-style tax cuts.

And the rhetorical response of conservatives to the stimulus plan — which will, it’s worth bearing in mind, cost substantially less than either the Bush administration’s $2 trillion in tax cuts or the $1 trillion and counting spent in Iraq — has bordered on the deranged.

It’s “generational theft,” said Senator John McCain, just a few days after voting for tax cuts that would, over the next decade, have cost about four times as much.

It’s “destroying my daughters’ future. It is like sitting there watching my house ransacked by a gang of thugs,” said Arnold Kling of the Cato Institute.

And the ugliness of the political debate matters because it raises doubts about the Obama administration’s ability to come back for more if, as seems likely, the stimulus bill proves inadequate.

For while Mr. Obama got more or less what he asked for, he almost certainly didn’t ask for enough. We’re probably facing the worst slump since the Great Depression. The Congressional Budget Office, not usually given to hyperbole, predicts that over the next three years there will be a $2.9 trillion gap between what the economy could produce and what it will actually produce. And $800 billion, while it sounds like a lot of money, isn’t nearly enough to bridge that chasm.

Officially, the administration insists that the plan is adequate to the economy’s need. But few economists agree. And it’s widely believed that political considerations led to a plan that was weaker and contains more tax cuts than it should have — that Mr. Obama compromised in advance in the hope of gaining broad bipartisan support. We’ve just seen how well that worked.

Now, the chances that the fiscal stimulus will prove adequate would be higher if it were accompanied by an effective financial rescue, one that would unfreeze the credit markets and get money moving again. But the long-awaited announcement of the Obama administration’s plans on that front, which also came this week, landed with a dull thud.

The plan sketched out by Tim Geithner, the Treasury secretary, wasn’t bad, exactly. What it was, instead, was vague. It left everyone trying to figure out where the administration was really going. Will those public-private partnerships end up being a covert way to bail out bankers at taxpayers’ expense? Or will the required “stress test” act as a back-door route to temporary bank nationalization (the solution favored by a growing number of economists, myself included)? Nobody knows.

Over all, the effect was to kick the can down the road. And that’s not good enough. So far the Obama administration’s response to the economic crisis is all too reminiscent of Japan in the 1990s: a fiscal expansion large enough to avert the worst, but not enough to kick-start recovery; support for the banking system, but a reluctance to force banks to face up to their losses. It’s early days yet, but we’re falling behind the curve.

And I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach — a feeling that America just isn’t rising to the greatest economic challenge in 70 years. The best may not lack all conviction, but they seem alarmingly willing to settle for half-measures. And the worst are, as ever, full of passionate intensity, oblivious to the grotesque failure of their doctrine in practice.

There’s still time to turn this around. But Mr. Obama has to be stronger looking forward. Otherwise, the verdict on this crisis might be that no, we can’t.

Obama on nationalization
Paul Krugman
Felix Salmon is impressed by President Obama’s response to a question about nationalization of banks. Me, not so much.

Yes, Obama is impressively articulate and well-informed — and his response shows that he has actually considered the issue. It’s light-years better than what we’ve grown accustomed to in recent years.

But his two main arguments aren’t actually very good. Yes, we have thousands of banks — but the problems are concentrated in a handful of big players. In fact, the Geithner plan, such as it is, already acknowledges this: the “stress test” is to be applied only to banks with assets over $100 billion, of which there are supposed to be around 14.

And the argument that our culture won’t stand for nationalization — well, our culture isn’t too friendly towards bank bailouts of any kind. Yet those bailouts are necessary; and even in America they may be more palatable if taxpayers at least get to throw the bums out.

Oh, and not a week goes by without the FDIC taking several smaller banks into receivership. Nationalization is actually as American as apple pie.

February 9, 2009
Op-Ed Columnist
The Destructive Center
What do you call someone who eliminates hundreds of thousands of American jobs, deprives millions of adequate health care and nutrition, undermines schools, but offers a $15,000 bonus to affluent people who flip their houses?

A proud centrist. For that is what the senators who ended up calling the tune on the stimulus bill just accomplished.

Even if the original Obama plan — around $800 billion in stimulus, with a substantial fraction of that total given over to ineffective tax cuts — had been enacted, it wouldn’t have been enough to fill the looming hole in the U.S. economy, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates will amount to $2.9 trillion over the next three years.

Yet the centrists did their best to make the plan weaker and worse.

One of the best features of the original plan was aid to cash-strapped state governments, which would have provided a quick boost to the economy while preserving essential services. But the centrists insisted on a $40 billion cut in that spending.

The original plan also included badly needed spending on school construction; $16 billion of that spending was cut. It included aid to the unemployed, especially help in maintaining health care — cut. Food stamps — cut. All in all, more than $80 billion was cut from the plan, with the great bulk of those cuts falling on precisely the measures that would do the most to reduce the depth and pain of this slump.

On the other hand, the centrists were apparently just fine with one of the worst provisions in the Senate bill, a tax credit for home buyers. Dean Baker of the Center for Economic Policy Research calls this the “flip your house to your brother” provision: it will cost a lot of money while doing nothing to help the economy.

All in all, the centrists’ insistence on comforting the comfortable while afflicting the afflicted will, if reflected in the final bill, lead to substantially lower employment and substantially more suffering.

But how did this happen? I blame President Obama’s belief that he can transcend the partisan divide — a belief that warped his economic strategy.

After all, many people expected Mr. Obama to come out with a really strong stimulus plan, reflecting both the economy’s dire straits and his own electoral mandate.

Instead, however, he offered a plan that was clearly both too small and too heavily reliant on tax cuts. Why? Because he wanted the plan to have broad bipartisan support, and believed that it would. Not long ago administration strategists were talking about getting 80 or more votes in the Senate.

Mr. Obama’s postpartisan yearnings may also explain why he didn’t do something crucially important: speak forcefully about how government spending can help support the economy. Instead, he let conservatives define the debate, waiting until late last week before finally saying what needed to be said — that increasing spending is the whole point of the plan.

And Mr. Obama got nothing in return for his bipartisan outreach. Not one Republican voted for the House version of the stimulus plan, which was, by the way, better focused than the original administration proposal.

In the Senate, Republicans inveighed against “pork” — although the wasteful spending they claimed to have identified (much of it was fully justified) was a trivial share of the bill’s total. And they decried the bill’s cost — even as 36 out of 41 Republican senators voted to replace the Obama plan with $3 trillion, that’s right, $3 trillion in tax cuts over 10 years.

So Mr. Obama was reduced to bargaining for the votes of those centrists. And the centrists, predictably, extracted a pound of flesh — not, as far as anyone can tell, based on any coherent economic argument, but simply to demonstrate their centrist mojo. They probably would have demanded that $100 billion or so be cut from anything Mr. Obama proposed; by coming in with such a low initial bid, the president guaranteed that the final deal would be much too small.

Such are the perils of negotiating with yourself.

Now, House and Senate negotiators have to reconcile their versions of the stimulus, and it’s possible that the final bill will undo the centrists’ worst. And Mr. Obama may be able to come back for a second round. But this was his best chance to get decisive action, and it fell short.

So has Mr. Obama learned from this experience? Early indications aren’t good.

For rather than acknowledge the failure of his political strategy and the damage to his economic strategy, the president tried to put a postpartisan happy face on the whole thing. “Democrats and Republicans came together in the Senate and responded appropriately to the urgency this moment demands,” he declared on Saturday, and “the scale and scope of this plan is right.”

No, they didn’t, and no, it isn’t.

Friday, February 6, 2009

598,000 Jobs Lost as Jobless Rate Hit 7.6% in January

As a reminder of the urgency of help for working families, the New York Times reports on February 7, 2009 that the
country moved into its second year of uninterrupted job losses last month, with companies shedding another 598,000 jobs — the most since December 1974 — and the unemployment rate moving up to 7.6 percent, the Labor Department reported on Friday.
While the Congress dithers over political gains, the Republicans keep pressing for tax help for the rich, jobs have become an endangered species in the US economic environment.
Economists had forecast a loss of 540,000 jobs and a unemployment rate of 7.5 percent. The jobless rate is at its highest since September 1992.

Job losses were once again spread across both manufacturing and service industries, reinforcing the picture of an economy that is contracting at its fastest pace in decades.

Employers in the United States have shed jobs every month since January 2008, for an aggregate decline in payroll employment of about 3.2 million.

The Labor Department also revised its numbers from December, saying that the economy lost 577,000 jobs compared with an initial reading of a loss of 524,000.
It is not adequate to the challenge to talk about bailouts that don't address the day to day crisis in the lives of working families by halting foreclosures and evictions for any reason, by extending unemployment benefits to all who are unemployed regardless of the reason, by insuring that unemployment benefits provide a living wage, and by stopping businesses from taking bailout funds and using them to protect their own limited interests at the expense of their employees and the communities in they operate and to whom they provide services.

As the NYT reports,
“Businesses are panicked and fighting for survival and slashing their payrolls,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Economy.com. “I think we’re trapped in a very adverse, self-reinforcing cycle. The downturn is intensifying, and likely to intensify further unless policy makers respond aggressively.”
The idea that this is a self-reinforcing cycle highlights once again the structural nature of the crisis and the demands of the time to think outside the capitalist context and look at nationalization and other mechanisms to address the issues facing working families today.

Even as the concrete realities of the time tend to raise the question of socialism, so the media have hightened their endless ranting against the socialist alternative. As this article is being written NPR is airing a piece on the role of anti-communist Lech Walesa and Solidarity in Poland. The report is interviewing all sorts of anti-communist people from Eastern Europe on how "capitalism" is normal; effectively arguing that its better to starve under capitalism than eat under communism.

This does not address the real situation here in the United States today.

For the last several months, analysts said, the United States has increasingly been trapped in a vicious circle of slumping consumer demand, falling business investment, mounting losses in the banking system, and rising unemployment, which was 7.2 percent in December.
The problems are not going to disappear due to tax cuts or other magic pills that the henchmen of capital might propose; solutions that continue the trend toward the greater and greater disproportionate distribution of wealth that underlies the current crisis.

As a result, the monthly pace of job losses shot up to about 500,000 a month for the last three months of 2008. Economists see no hint that the bottom has been reached.

Most economic forecasters had been expecting a loss of roughly 500,000 jobs in January, at least as bad as in December, because other indicators of the job market had been trending down as well. Last week, the number of Americans filing first-time jobless claims reached a 26-year high, with 626,000 filling out initial applications.
Major retailers, rocked by one of the worst holiday shopping seasons in memory, have been shutting stores and laying of armies of workers in recent weeks. On Thursday, the nation’s retailers reported that sales fell 1.6 percent in January, the fourth consecutive month of steep sales declines.

And in sign that the country’s slowdown continues to reach beyond its borders, Canada, America’s largest trading partner, reported Friday that its unemployment rate jumped to 7.2 percent in January, from 6.7 percent in December.

In Washington, Friday’s gloomy job report put more pressure on Congress to pass an economic stimulus bill. The House passed a bill last week that would provide more than $800 billion in spending and tax cuts. In the Senate, still bogged down by objections from Republicans, lawmakers were hoping to be able to muster enough votes to pass a measure on Friday

For comparison, the unemployment rate was 4.9 percent in January 2008. But some analysts contend that the current unemployment rate understates the labor market’s problems because the percentage of adults participating in the labor force has slumped in recent years, and those people are not listed as “unemployed.”

Peter Morici, an economist at the University of Maryland, estimated that if the labor force participation rate today was as high as it was when President Bush took office, the unemployment rate would be 9.4 percent.

Ian Shepherdson, chief North American economist for High Frequency Economics in Valhalla, N.Y., said the government had become the only source of energy left to break the cycle of slumping demand for goods and falling production.

“The public sector needs to act,” Mr. Shepherdson wrote in a note to clients. “It needs to prevent an endless spiral of attempts to increase saving, leading to reduced spending, leading to reduced incomes, leading to further attempts to raise savings, and so on.”

“We remain firmly of the view that the package now in Congress is the bare minimum required to slow the shrinkage of the economy over the next year.”

Many economists expect that the economy will continue to contract until July at the very least, but at a slowing pace in the second quarter. That would make it the longest recession since the 1930s, outlasting the two record-holders, the mid-1970s and early 1980s downturns. Each of these recessions lasted 16 months. The current recession, which started in December 2007, would reach that milestone in April.

The Federal Reserve continues to pump money into the financial system at a furious pace. Since September, the central bank has more than doubled its reserves, from $900 billion to more than $2 trillion, by literally creating new money.

The Fed has used some of that money to help bail out financial institutions, from Citigroup and Bank of America to the American International Group.

It has been pumping hundreds of billions of dollars into new lending programs, stepping in for banks and other financial institutions to buy up a widening array of corporate debt. Later this month, the Fed will begin a $200 billion program, in conjunction with the Treasury, to finance consumer debt ranging from car loans and credit card debt to student loans.

But analysts say that the big problem is not a shortage of money, but a shortage of demand for products by businesses and consumers. As a result, banks are overloaded with excess reserves, made available by the Fed, which they are often simply parking at the Fed.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Obama Set to Add Republican to Cabinet

As Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times (NYT) mentions in his 2/3 article,
If a new political breeze is blowing in the capital, perhaps the best evidence can be found in this: A Democratic president selects a Republican senator to serve in the cabinet. The Democratic governor with the power to fill the Senate seat signals that he will leave it in Republican hands, depriving his party of a chance to reach 60 votes, a magic number when it comes to passing legislation.
Is bi-partisanship the change that sixty million people voted for? Is the focus on bi-partisanship a calculation based on the vote counts in the last election and designed to ensure support for an Obama second term? Will the Republican members of the Cabinet be effective advocates for the President's agenda. What is the class content of bi-partisanship?

Barack Obama Town Hall at Anderson High in Anderson, IN on April 26, 2008

Certainly Senator Judd Gregg is partisan. He told the Administration that "he would not serve if a Democrat was to fill his seat." Replacing Senator Gregg with an appointed Democrat would have consolidated the power of the Democrats in the Senate.

As Senator Gregg said:
“I have made it clear to the Senate leadership on both sides of the aisle and to the governor that I would not leave the Senate if I felt my departure would cause a change in the makeup of the Senate,” he said. “The Senate leadership, both Democratic and Republican, and the governor understand this concern, and I appreciate their consideration of this position.”

The focus on bipartisanship is evidently an overarching concern for President Obama.
Even when the possibility of putting a Democrat in Mr. Gregg’s Senate seat dimmed, Mr. Obama pressed ahead, telling his advisers that it was more important to build a bipartisan cabinet than increase his Senate majority.

As regards the class content of bipartisanship,
James M. Demers, a New Hampshire Democrat who was a leading supporter of Mr. Obama’s presidential bid, said selecting Mr. Gregg as commerce secretary would send a signal to Republicans that the president was serious about building a bipartisan team with diverse viewpoints. Mr. Demers said it could also ease suspicion among fiscal conservatives about Mr. Obama’s agenda.
The fiscal conservatives are among the folks that created the fiscal crisis. If fiscal conservatism relates to limiting debt or "fiscal responsibility" as a justification for attacking Social Security and Medicare in the current crisis then the class content is clear; these are anti-working class trends.

While the President continues to push for the much needed bailout, and for expanding labor's ability to organize, there are contradictory trends in the Administration. In the face of zero Republican votes in the House for the fiscal stimulus, the President continues to push for bipartisanship. This concern gives voice to a party, the Republicans, that suffered near complete renunciation at the polls in the last election. Rather than allowing the Republicans to water down the initiatives that the President desires to undertake on behalf of working families in the United States, it would be good to push hard to get as much as possible passed to undo the decades of conservative, primarily but not only Republican, financial devestation that has been wrought on working families.

The measure of success in a changed Washington is not how the Administration pursues bipartisanship in the mistaken belief that everyone wants what is best for the country as a whole. The measure of success is whether the needs of working families, those without access to health care, the unemployed, organized labor, the disabled, the immigrant, and the downtrodden, the young, and the oppressed get help in our struggle to live and meet our basic needs.

Class struggle from below in the form of large grass roots movements in support of the needs of working families and our allies is needed as much today as ever to counterbalance the influence of big business and their allies in the policy-making process and help to create space for the President to provide the promised change that goes far beyond bipartisanship, change that provides concrete help to working families.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I remember Winnie

I remember Winnie
Author: Jarvis Tyner, executive vice chair, Communist Party USA
People's Weekly World Newspaper, 05/08/04 00:00

Henry Winston, the former national chairman of the Communist Party USA, was a great leader of our party. I had the honor and privilege of working with him for over 30 years. He was a wonderful comrade, my teacher and a very dear friend. I will always remember Winnie.

This year is the 93rd anniversary of Henry Winston’s birth. He was born April 2, 1911, in Hattiesburg, Miss. Winston’s grandparents lived under slavery. Born and raised under the system of Jim Crow, Winnie grew up to become one of the finest Marxist-Leninist thinkers and organizers that the U.S. working class has ever produced.

At the age of 11 his family moved to Kansas City, Mo. Hard economic conditions forced him to drop out of high school after two years. This was the beginning of the Great Depression. Like so many others, he ended up finding the movement of the unemployed. He took part in great struggles against hunger and unemployment and the movement to defend the Scottsboro youths. He was active in the Southern Negro Youth Congress and the National Negro Congress.

At age 19, Winston joined the Young Communist League, where his remarkable leadership abilities made it possible for him to rise from the post of Ohio organizer to that of national administrative secretary in a relatively short time. During that period Winston joined the Communist Party. He ultimately was elected the CPUSA’s national chairman at the Party’s 18th Convention in 1966. He spent over 20 years as national chairman as part of a team with Gus Hall, the Party’s outstanding general secretary.

I first met Henry Winston in 1961 in Philadelphia. He had recently been released from federal prison. Winston was a victim of the infamous anticommunist Smith Act. He had been convicted along with 11 other leaders of the CPUSA (for thinking, as Gus Hall often would say) and was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison. Their “crime” was basically being a leader of the Communist Party and advocating an end to war, racism, economic oppression and calling for a socialist USA. Like today under the Bush administration’s Patriot Act, the U.S. government then was trying to outlaw all dissent. Outlawing the Communist Party USA was the first step.

Winston and his comrades were political prisoners. By standing up for their rights, they were really upholding the highest principles of free speech and the right to advocate change,

including revolutionary change. They dared to stand up against the postwar anti-Soviet Cold War hysteria created by imperialism – and led by U.S. imperialism – in order to rationalize its drive for world domination.

They were real patriots and should have been treated like heroes for their great work on behalf of the working class and racially oppressed. Instead they were criminalized; they were hounded and persecuted. But through it all they consistently upheld the banner of the right to dissent, of peace, economic and social justice and freedom for all. They refused to join the anti-Soviet chorus of cold warriors who were acting on behalf of imperialism and its military-industrial complex. They were anti-imperialist and believed in proletarian internationalism and socialism. That was their “crime.”

From my time as a youth leader, I cherish the times I had with Winnie. To meet Henry Winston and to be a part of the Party headed by him and Gus Hall was a great experience for young revolutionaries. The Party was full of hundreds of seasoned working-class people of all races and nationalities, men and women who shared with us a wealth of knowledge. Henry Winston was the best. It could be said that he never left the youth movement because he gave his heart and soul to the education of the younger activists. We all loved him for that.

Winston’s organizational and political skills were legendary. I witnessed his mastery of the politics of organization every day for many decades. Having been a Communist political prisoner himself, Winston played a superb leadership role in the international fight for Angela Davis’ freedom. He truly understood the fight against racism, the need for unity and how to build broad, mass movements.

He played an outstanding pioneering role in the U.S. fight to free Nelson Mandela and in solidarity with the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. He led the Party’s work in the anti-apartheid struggle. His basic thinking helped make the U.S. movement in solidarity with Southern Africa a majority movement. He was the first in the U.S. to call for the boycott of the Republic of South Africa under the slogan of “isolate the racists.” Winston was in close contact with and highly respected by many of the top leaders of the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the African National Congress.

Winston was a master polemicist. The African Communist, the SACP publication, described Winston’s seminal work, “Strategy for a Black Agenda” (International Publishers, 1973), as a “fighting book, written at white heat by someone who is by no means an academic onlooker but a front-line participant in a main battlefield against imperialism.” They characterized the book as “an indispensable weapon for every fighter for the liberation of Africa and her sons and daughters in the USA and Africa.”

This book was soon followed by another, titled “Class, Race and Black Liberation” (International Publishers, 1977). He also delivered many remarkable reports and speeches. Many were made into pamphlets.

Winnie was a special victim of the racism in the U.S. prison system. The African American Communists convicted under the Smith Act were treated more harshly then the others. While serving time in prison, Winston developed a brain tumor. The prison authorities refused his demands for treatment. Winston suffered through weeks of inadequate care and excruciating headaches. Because he was denied proper medical treatment, Winston ultimately lost his sight.

He needed to be released from prison and put under the care of a specialist. The extraordinary lawyer for the Communist Party, John Abt, sprang into action. Abt led the campaign to win an early medical release for Winston. That effort eventually led to President John F. Kennedy granting Winston such a release in 1960.

When Winston was released he uttered these memorable words, “They have robbed me of my sight, but not my vision.”

Winston was quickly put under the care of an able U.S. eye specialist and then went to the USSR for emergency treatment. By that time, however, they were only able to save a small portion of his sight.

Eventually Winston became totally blind. But through all of that, Winnie found the means to be an active, vibrant Communist leader. In that regard Fern Winston, his wife and comrade who recently passed away, was indispensable, as were the various comrades who traveled with Winnie and helped him live an active life. I never saw it firsthand, but a very reliable source told me recently that Winnie loved to go bowling and did well at it. Everyone who knew him admired his great courage and steadfastness.

Despite having gone through what he had, Winston showed no bitterness. He was warm, kind and confident. He had a good sense of humor and a vast knowledge of history, politics and Marxist-Leninist theory. He was fiercely dedicated to the cause of the working class and all oppressed people, a militant foe of all forms of injustice. He was a highly skilled and experienced Party leader who had a great deal of confidence in his people and his class.

That idea of Winnie’s vision became a guide to life for all of us. His vision was the vision of a better world that tens of millions of people all over the world today believe is possible. Henry Winston died on Dec. 12, 1986.

We can move closer to Winston’s vision if we are able to defeat the Bush administration and their policies at the polls this November. Winnie would have been very happy to see that happen.

I will always remember Winnie for his enormous humanism and compassion. He headed what you could call the Party’s “sick and shut-in committee.” If someone was ever ailing for more than a day or so, he or she could expect a call from Winston. I also remember the wonderful barbecue picnics out at his country house and the great times sharing a delicious meal with him and Fern at their apartment in East Harlem.

I remember his great love for music and culture and the great camaraderie between him and Gus Hall, Jim Jackson, William L. Patterson, Ted Bassett, Vic Perlo, John Pittman, and Helen and Carl Winter and other stalwarts. I will never forget the great stories he’d tell and that wonderful smile and infectious sense of humor. But above all, I will remember most his great dignity and confidence as an African American Communist and worker.

Jarvis Tyner is executive vice-chair of the Communist Party USA. He can be reached at jtyner@cpusa.org.

*(see related article below)

Fight racism for unity and progress

By Henry Winston

The giant industrial monopolies, the big banks and insurance companies, the financiers and landowners, all spawn racism and use it as one of their chief class weapons to maintain and defend their regime of exploitation and oppression, of enmity among peoples, of imperialist wars of aggression.

It follows that all democratic and antimonopoly forces, with the working class and Black liberation movement in the van, can effectively defend the interests of the vast majority of people only when they actively further the struggle against racism. This is an essential precondition for the development of a fighting alliance which will unite all democratic and antimonopoly forces in the country.

Marx wrote long ago that “labor in a white skin can never be free so long as labor in the black skin is branded.” This profound observation points up the fact that racism is the consciously employed weapon of the white imperialist oppressors, who use it to create division in the ranks of the working class. And Marx correctly suggests that white workers must take the lead in the struggle against racism. This is the path which can lead to unity of Black and white workers in struggle, which can achieve Black equality and a real improvement in the conditions of all workers.

The conclusion which Communists must draw with respect to this most important question is that it is mere chatter to talk about trade union consciousness developing into class consciousness and advancing to socialist consciousness if there does not exist a conscious, unending struggle against racism.

No worker can be said to be class conscious who does not recognize the community of interests of all workers as a class. And for white workers this means, first of all, recognition of the community of their interests with those of Black workers and therefore of the need to fight for the rights of Black workers.

– From a lecture to a seminar of Communist Party organizers in 1971.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Madam C.J. Walker's fortune had its roots in hair products

As we enter Black History Month, it is welcome to see the Indianapolis Star celebrating Madam C.J. Walker. Madam Walker left an enduring legacy of Black entrepreneurship that is one stream, and an important stream, of the African-American experience in the United States.

However, too often the celebration of Black History Month celebrates themes of African American's "pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps" rather than themes of protest and struggle which are much influential overall to the experience of Black folks and working people in the United States.

The story provided to the reader by the IndyStar gave the only pieces of information that the Star felt would be important to know, and which essentially send the message "You think you have it rough, look what she overcame." Of course, there is another anti-working class message: "She got to be a millionaire starting with nothing and against tremendous odds. See what hard work and commitment to capitalism gets you?"

What do we find out from the Indy Star:

  • daughter of former slaves
  • parents died when she was 7
  • husband died when she was 20, leaving her with a 2-year-old daughter
  • perfected a formula for straightening the hair of black women (not sure if this is correct)
  • employed 20,000 agents
  • a self-made millionaire
Ms. Walker was successful in capitalist terms and helped many people to have a better life, even while there was an element of exploitation involved in her success due to the dynamics of capitalism. She is to be celebrated for her ability to overcome so much at an extremely difficult time in terms of people's attitudes toward Black people in general, and toward women.

It must be remembered that Ms. Walker would never have had an opportunity to become an entrepreneur without the tireless work of those who struggled against slavery including Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln.

The celebration of capitalism that the IndyStar.com article implies rings hollow today when capitalism as an economic structure is in crisis and working people, and in particular Black and other people of color, struggle to survive.

A woman from the same time period as Ms. Walker but who took a very different path is Mary McLeod Bethune. Borth in 1875, Ms. Bethune was an educator and civil rights leader best known for starting a school for Black students in Florida, the Bethune-Cookman University, and for being an advisor to Franklin D. roosevelt.

Like Ms. Walker, Ms. Bethune was born to parents who had been slaves.

[S]he took an early interest in her own education. With the help of benefactors, Bethune attended college hoping to become a missionary in Africa. When that did not materialize, she started a school for black girls in Daytona Beach. From six students it grew and merged with an institute for black boys and eventually became the Bethune-Cookman School. Its quality far surpassed the standards of education for black students, and rivaled those of white schools. Bethune worked tirelessly to ensure funding for the school, and used it as a showcase for tourists and donors, to exhibit what educated black people could do. She was president of the college from 1923 to 1942 and 1946 to 1947, one of the few women in the world who served as a college president at that time.

Bethune was also active in women's clubs, and her leadership in them allowed her to become nationally prominent. She worked for the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932, and became a member of Roosevelt's Black Cabinet, sharing the concerns of black people with the Roosevelt administration while spreading Roosevelt's message to blacks, who had been traditionally Republican voters. Upon her death, columnist Louis E. Martin said, "She gave out faith and hope as if they were pills and she some sort of doctor."[1] Her home in Daytona Beach is a National Historic Landmark,[2] her house in Washington, D.C. in Logan Circle is preserved by the National Park Service as a National Historic Site,[3] and a sculpture of her is located in Lincoln Park in Washington, D.C.[4]

-- Wikipedia

Bethune was the Florida Chapter chair of the National Association of Colored Women from 1917-1925, during which time she focused on voter registration, and came into conflict with the KKK.

Bethune founded the National Council of Negro Women in New York City in 1935, bringing together 28 different organizations to form a council to facilitate the improvement of the quality of life for women and their communities.

About the organization, Bethune stated: "It is our pledge to make a lasting contribution to all that is finest and beastly in America, to cherish and enrich her heritage of freedom and progress by working for the integration of all her people regardless of race, creed, or national origin, into her spiritual, social, cultural, civic, and economic life, and thus aid her to achieve the glorious destiny of a true and unfettered democracy."

Bethune was a fighter for African-Americans as a nationality and as members of the working class. As she said:

There can be no divided democracy, no class government, no half-free county, under the constitution. Therefore, there can be no discrimination, no segregation, no separation of some citizens from the rights which belong to all... We are on our way. But these are frontiers which we must conquer... We must gain full equality in education ...in the franchise... in economic opportunity, and full equality in the abundance of life.
The struggles that Ms. Bethune championed remain with us today. It is good to remember the central role of struggle for equality and economic justice that is central to the experience of African Americans when we consider the rich history and the awesome promise of our community.

Layoffs will hit Mittal workers

Layoffs will hit Mittal workers

This story is about how the company whips saws plants against each other. Late last week I started hearing stories at work about how the production at our plant in Burns Harbor was going to pick up and we would be getting orders from the East Chicago plants which are the old Inland and LTV plants. Last year the company originally threatened to just about shut down the Burns Harbor plant by laying off 2500 out of 3400 and putting the rest of the workers on four days. They were going to transfer orders to Inland they said. The Union leadership resisted making a concessions agreement that the company wanted until the company actually started transferring the orders and slowing the steel producing side of the mill down. Then the agreement was made to eliminate all incentive plans and other local agreements on contracting out. Now it appears that the same thing is being done to Inland to get an agreement out of them. They are threatening them with layoffs and the transfer of work to Burns Harbor. Inland has a deep reserve of local agreements to bargain with as the company was originally bought before bankruptcy. The Inland workers never lost their pensions and all local agreements, like the former LTV and Bethlehem workers did. We can only wait to see what they negotiate to preserve jobs. - redsteel46403

February 1, 2009

By Jane Huh

Post-Tribune staff writer

EAST CHICAGO -- Steelworkers at two ArcelorMittal plants in Indiana Harbor are facing temporary layoffs, a crushing development that "just reinforces the point that we need strong and quick action for the economy," said Jim Robinson, District 7 director for United Steelworkers.

"It's hard to have a booming steel industry when nobody's buying steel," Robinson said Saturday.

ArcelorMittal officials told United Steelworkers on Friday that a limp economy forced the layoffs.

"As a result of market conditions, ArcelorMittal has notified the United Steelworkers and other required stakeholders about the need for temporary layoffs at our Indiana Harbor facility, effective immediately," company spokeswoman Katie Patterson said.

The number of employees affected will be determined after negotiations between the union and the company, officials said. The layoffs are expected to last less than six months, they said.

READ the whole story by following the link in the title.