The Working Class and Trade Union Movement
Workers always seek to solve the chronic ills they face. Whether individual workers are conscious of it yet or not, the ultimate outcome of this struggle is socialism. To determine the strategy and tactics required for immediate progress and more basic change, it is necessary to be clear about what propels progressive change and about which struggles, classes, and social forces have the potential to play decisive roles. The history of our country and the experience of struggle worldwide in recent years confirm the Marxist assertion that the struggle of the working class against the capitalist class is the chief driving force for fundamental progressive change.
The working class is compelled to resist increased exploitation. It seeks to improve living conditions by increasing workers share of the new value they create at the expense of the capitalists. This class struggle takes place in the factories where commodities are produced and in the venues of distribution and sale of commodities. This is the economic side of the class struggle. The class struggle also has a political side. It plays out in struggles over governmental action or inaction, over social spending and tax policy, over elections, and ultimately over which class or formation of class and social forces becomes dominant in holding and exercising political power. The class struggle also exists in the realm of ideology, that is, between social and political ideas and values that justify the political and economic policies of the contending classes.
The class struggle starts with the fight for wages, hours, benefits, working conditions, job security, and jobs. But it also includes an endless variety of other forms for fighting specific battles: resisting speed-up, picketing, contract negotiations, strikes, demonstrations, lobbying for pro-labor legislation, elections, and even general strikes. When workers struggle against the capitalist class or any part of it on any issue with the aim of improving or defending their lives, it is part of the class struggle.
There is no limit to the range of issues that are part of the class struggle: peace, democratic liberties, for full equality and against racism, health care, decent schools, public housing, social security, environmental protection, and more. The class struggle takes on more conscious forms in strike struggles, which are expressions of trade union consciousness. The class struggle reaches full class and socialist consciousness only when the alliance of class and social forces is built under working-class leadership in order to win power and construct socialism. The activity of the Communist Party is based on building full class consciousness, which includes socialist consciousness.
The working class is the only force capable of becoming the general leader of the struggle for full social progress and socialism. Capitalisms dependence on the working class to create all wealth gives it a strategic role in the production process and great potential power.
The size of the working class and its experience of collective labor and collective struggle prepare it to lead the struggle for progress. In the words of the Communist Manifesto, the working class is the only truly revolutionary class, because only the working class has no other interest than ending capitalism completely and replacing it with socialism. These qualities and experiences also make the working class fertile ground for the ideas of socialism and Marxism and for Communist Party membership.
The working class of the U.S. is vibrant and diverse. The working class constitutes the great bulk of the country's population, and is continually growingworkers and their families are a substantial majority of the total population. The diversity of the working class includes skilled and unskilled labor, white-collar and blue-collar workers, people of all ages, organized and unorganized, employed, underemployed, and unemployed. Our working class is almost evenly composed of men and women. Most nationally and racially oppressed communities are more heavily working-class than the country as a whole, and together constitute more than 25% of the working class, a percentage that is rapidly increasing. Despite its increasing diversity, ours is a single working class, a class whose unity is growing and deepening.
The Communist Manifesto declared: Workers of the World Unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains. From the smallest of class struggles to the largest, unity is the key to victory. The experience of working people in their workplaces and neighborhoods is such that only by joining together to fight for their common interests and demands can they win. This is the guiding principle of all unions and people's organizations: in unity is strength. Organization is the characteristic weapon of the working class and popular movements.
The Communist Party seeks to build broad unity to achieve the strategic and tactical goals of the working class. The major obstacle to working class unity is capitalist class-promoted racism, which must be fought by allfull unity will only be built when substantial numbers of white workers participate in the fight for full equality and against racism, based on an understanding of their self-interest in class unity.
This principle is not just true in struggles in the workplace, on the campus, or in the neighborhood, but is equally true at the ballot box, in the larger political and social struggles, and in the battle for the hearts and minds of the public. Only by joining together can the working class and its allies win the larger struggles for dignity, rights, and power. The working class cannot achieve its ultimate goal — socialismwithout fighting for its leading role in the context of unity with other class and social forces.
Working class unity is fundamental to all key social and political victories. It is essential to the class struggle. In recent decades there has been a decline in the percentage of people in the workforce who are union members. One of the most crucial ways of increasing the strength and unity of the working class as a whole is organizing the unorganized. Working-class unity depends on uniting all the diverse sectors of the multiracial, multinational working class in the U.S.
Likewise, unity between various unions, between unemployed and employed, between industrial and service workers, etc., will strengthen the labor movement and increase its ability to fight for bigger demands and victories. Only by uniting with workers in other countries can we successfully confront the transnationals.
The working class plays a leading role in the struggle for various demands, but many of the key needs of working people cannot be won by the trade union movement or the working class alone. Unions must engage in coalitions with community, civil rights, womens, student, senior, and other organizations in order to increase their combined ability to win against a powerful enemy. From strike struggles to legislative initiatives to the fight for the White House, labor must build unity with other social forces to achieve victory. Only the unity of millions of working people led by the working class can win a revolutionary struggle.
The unity of labor and community cannot be based solely on the demands and leadership of labor. Labor must take up the fight for the demands of its allies on the basis of mutual trust and commitment. This allows for the working class to establish its leading role among the mass movements as a whole. The Communist Party always seeks to build principled unity among the working class and all progressive social forces to further their interests and power.
New levels of unity and new alliances and coalitions have developed in the working class movement in the recent period. The common struggle against capitalist globalization has ushered in an advanced phase of working unity between the labor movement, the environmental movement, the student movement, and others. Shifts in labors immigration policy have allowed a new level of unity with immigrant rights organizations. Labor has increased its support of and work with labor/student solidarity organizations in recent years. There is a constant need to reinforce and defend this unity on the basis of common work, mutual respect, and understanding.
At all strategic stages of struggle from the present to the construction of socialism, the working class is the most important and consistent class and the only one whose interests are entirely on the side of progress and socialism. That does not mean that at every moment, in every struggle, it will in fact be the leader. But the working class will tend more and more to become the leader of struggles for progress and socialism.
The working class, however, cannot be the sole force in these struggles, because its opponents at each stage are powerful, with great resources at their command. There are other major social forces whose interests substantially parallel those of the working class as a whole. Only with the maximum of unity and powerful alliances can victory in a peaceful manner be assured.
The labor movement is the organized sector of the working class and is the key strategic factor to achieving fundamental social change. The diversity of the labor movement is growing in composition and leadership in recent years. The working class is constantly being joined by some who were once independent professionalsincluding doctors and engineers but are now employees of vast corporations. The labor movement is no longer limited to pure and simple trade union struggles. It plays a major, often leading role, in legislative and electoral struggles and has developed a large and increasingly independent labor electoral apparatus. It has developed on-going relationships with organizations of the nationally and racially oppressed, women, students, and others. It is increasingly seeking forms of international labor cooperation.
Though the labor movement has shrunk in the U.S. (and some other developed capitalist countries in recent decades), labor has become the leading force for progress on many social issues and in the electoral arena. Speeding up the organization of unorganized workers is one of the most important challenges to labor and all progressive forces. For nation-wide success in new organizing, unity of the labor movement is crucial, overcoming narrow and sectarian interests in the interests of the working class as a whole. Organizing the unorganized by itself, however, is not sufficientcontinuing to win unions and their memberships to class struggle trade unionism and to broad trade union unity are also required.
The overriding interests of the whole working class in confronting the power of corporations mean building trade union unity across all lines of craft and industry and across national borders.
The Democratic Struggle and its Relation to the Class Struggle
Democratic struggles take place all the time throughout the U.S. and the world. They are struggles to enlarge democracy in every aspect of life for all working people to improve their real life options. They include the struggle to prevent deterioration of living conditions. The democratic struggle is not only about democratic rights, civil liberties, and electoral democracy. It also includes struggles for peace, equality for the racially and nationally oppressed, equality for women job creation programs, increased minimum wage, adequate health care, education, day care, housing, social security, pension and other retirement benefits, environmental protection, protection of family farms and small businesses, the needs of youth, cultural programs and independent media, progressive taxation, sharply reduced military spending, and more. The struggles of all class and social forces that seek to curb the power of the transnationals are democratic struggles.
The class struggle and the democratic struggle are closely linked; they overlap and intertwine. However, they are not identical. The class struggle in an immediate sense pits workers against a particular company or sector at the point of production and against the capitalist class as a whole in broader social and economic struggles. The aim of the class struggle in the longer term is the winning of power in order to construct socialism. The aim of the democratic struggle is to widen the democratic space for all working people as much as possible so long as capitalism exists. The interaction of these two streams of struggle advances the struggle to the eve of socialist revolution. After a revolution, a qualitative change happens, with democracy progressing in a planned and guaranteed process in harmony with the working class as the new ruling class.
On the eve of socialism, the class struggle reaches its decisive turning point and goes beyond the limits of the democratic struggle under capitalism. The victory of socialism will open a new stage in the continual development of democracy.
Every specific class struggle is also part of the democratic struggle because in those struggles, the masses of workers seek to enlarge or protect democratic possibilities. Often, class battles are played out in the political arena where the democratic action of millions of workers can powerfully affect the battles outcome.
The democratic struggle brings together the working class and other class and social forces for common struggle against one or another sector of the capitalist class. The democratic struggle is where alliances and coalitions between labor and other forces take place. This is one reason why the ultra-right seeks to curtail and limit democratic rights. As the battle against the ultra-right intensifies, ultra-right attacks on democratic rights also intensify.
The U.S. Constitution, as originally written, placed many restrictions on democracy, so from the time of the countrys founding there has been a continual battle to extend democracy. From demanding that the Bill of Rights be included in the Constitution to legal battles to ensure that all people have inalienable rights, from eliminating property requirements for voting to outlawing poll taxes, from not only freeing the slaves but enrolling them as voters to extending the franchise to women, from the Voting Rights Act to lowering the voting age, our history has been one of masses of people demanding their right to full participation in the decisions which affect their lives. Many victories have been won in this struggle, but it is far from over. Democratic rights in a capitalist society are always under attack.
The struggle to protect and expand democracy is the way to defeat the ultra-right. It is the way to prevent fascism. It is the path of curtailing the power of the monopolies. In and through the democratic struggle, the class struggle advances toward victory. Democratic struggle is the way to bring the working class and peoples forces to the brink of socialism.
Our countrys revolutionary traditions and history are filled with sharp struggles to protect and expand democracy. The desire of all people to actively participate in the decision-making of society drives battles for voting rights, for expanding the electorate, for reforming the electoral system, for protecting civil liberties, for guaranteeing civil rights, for an end to all forms of discrimination, and for eliminating the power of large financial contributions, which enable the rich to dominate elections. These democratic struggles are often entered into by working-class forces that see the value to workers of expanding their political power and opportunity. The democratic struggle embraces class and social forces other than or in addition to the working class in struggles against one or another sector of the capitalist class and its dominant transnational monopolies.
The Constitution provides for political democracy, which though limited, is under attack by the ultra-right. Protecting and expanding democratic rights are crucial struggles which communists support. But we go furtherwe demand economic democracy and freedom from exploitation and oppression. We want the lives of all working people to be free not only of unwarranted governmental power but also to be free of unwarranted corporate power.
Often, class battles are played out in the political arena, where the democratic rights of millions of workers can powerfully affect the outcome. Every democratic struggle, by weakening the capitalist class or a section of it, objectively helps shift the balance of forces, strengthening the working class. The struggle to defend and enlarge democracy is therefore the only path to socialism in our countryany other path will fail and is politically indefensible. As Lenin said, "All democracy consists in the proclamation and realization of rights which under capitalism are realizable only to a very small degree and only relatively. But without the proclamation of these rights, without a struggle to introduce them now, immediately, without training the masses in the spirit of this struggle, socialism is impossible."
Special Oppression and Exploitation
The most important of the potential allies of the working class are those who suffer special oppression and exploitation due to capitalism. All specially oppressed communities are well represented as part of the working class and also include people from other classes. Those who are part of the working class suffer the exploitation and social problems of all other workers, and in addition suffer from special oppression that is not solely based on class, such as racism, national discrimination, and male supremacy. Some people experience triple and quadruple oppression since they face several layers of intense exploitation, discrimination, and oppression.
The racially and nationally oppressed, women, youth, and immigrants all face types of special oppression, as do seniors, the Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender (LGBT) community, the disabled, and the mentally ill. Many features of special oppression cut across class lines and affect to some degree all members of each oppressed social group. They affect not only those who are workers or part of the professional and small business groups but to some extent even those from sections of the capitalist class. This common experience of oppression creates a wide basis for unity within each group and among all groups facing discrimination and oppression.
Capitalists directly gain from special oppression. Extra profits are extracted by the special oppression and exploitation of each group and from the disunity caused among working people. Capitalists and their apologists use ideological poison to justify and cover-up both special oppression and the exploitation of all workers. Working class members of specially oppressed peoples play a key role in building alliances between the working class and their oppressed group as a whole, since they are an important part of both.
Multiracial, Multinational Unity for Full Equlity and Against Racism; More Forces for Progress
The foremost potential allies of the working class, through the various stages of struggle all the way to socialism, are the nationally and racially oppressed peoples. At the same time, racism is the single most important weapon of the ruling class to weaken class and democratic struggles. It is a classic divide-and-conquer tactic. Spreading division within the working class and between the working class and its allies weakens all movements and struggles. Against this division, we must build multiracial unity with antiracism and the fight for full equality at its core. The working class is the most multiracial, multinational class in our society, and multiracial unity is key to building unity within the working class as well as in society as a whole.
Racism in its many forms continues to play a negative but central role in every aspect of U.S. life, including keeping the ultra-right in power, producing super profits, and developing, justifying, and maintaining institutional discrimination.
The working class must fight against racism, for full equality of all nationally oppressed, and for affirmative action, if it is to unite internally and enter lasting alliances with the organizations and movements of racially oppressed peoples. By the same token, the nationally and racially oppressed groups must support labors demands in order to unite internally and to ally with labor.
The U.S. is perhaps the most multiracial and multinational country in the world, with about 300 million people including almost every race, nationality, and ethnic group on the planet. Racially and nationally oppressed people live and work in every region, in every state, and in every major city. They are primarily working-class and generally occupy the lowest-paying, most exploitative jobs. Among the nationally and racially oppressed are African Americans, Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans and other Latino peoples, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and Arab and Middle Eastern peoples.
From its inception, the United States was built on racism. From the displacement and near genocide of Native Americans, to the enslavement of African Americans, to the theft of huge sections of Mexico, to the racist exclusion of Asian and Pacific Islander immigrants, to the current xenophobic hysteria against Arabs and South Asians, racism has been a convenient tool for the maintenance of power and super-profits by the ruling class at the expense of oppressed people and all workers.
Racism affects the unity of the working class at all levels. Racism is a tool that not only exploits racially oppressed people; it aids in the exploitation of white workers as well. Racial discrimination in hiring, racist wage and salary policies, and racial stratification of various industries and trades undermine the interests of all workers. The ability of employers to pay workers differently based on skin color, country of origin, immigration status, or hire date in two-tier wage systems exerts downward pressure on the wages of all workers. It allows bosses to extract even higher profits from racially oppressed workers. Racism is good for business, but is bad for working people of every race. White workers have a powerful self-interest in fighting racismwhite workers will gain greater victories to the degree that they unite with nationally and racially oppressed workers. Multiracial unity in the workplace and on the shop-floor is the key to winning victories for all, to lifting wages, conditions and dignity for every worker.
The workplace is not the only place where building multiracial unity is essential. Multiracial unity is necessary at all levels of class and democratic struggles. This is the reason for the long-standing coalition between the labor and civil rights movements. Not only do these movements have common enemies; they have a common agenda of expanding economic, social, and civil rights. The working class and racially oppressed people have common interests in housing, employment, education, and other areas.
White people must take an initiating role in combating all instances of racism and national oppression wherever and whenever they occur and provide support to people of color who are in leadership of movements and organizations. These acts are the building blocks of grassroots unity and trust. They prove the struggle against racism is not for racially oppressed people to combat alone. It is in the self-interest of all workers, leading to greater unity, respect, and strength for the labor movement and all other movements.
Historically and continuing today, African Americans and their organizations play a tremendous role in democratic and class struggles and in building alliances with progressive movements, especially the labor movement. As well, the struggle for equality and against racism in relation to African Americans has played a central role in the entire struggle for democracy and progress. The reasons for this key role include:
the central role played by slavery in providing capital for U.S. political and economic development;
the central role resistance to slavery played in winning the Civil War, the Second American Revolution;
the central role played by the Civil Rights revolution in defeating Jim Crow laws and practices, mobilizing virtually an entire people and their allies, challenging and defeating entrenched reaction in the South, forcing changes in the voting laws to expand democracy, and setting the stage for movements of other oppressed peoples, exemplified by the role played by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the history of our country;
the exceptionally high percentage of African Americans who are working class;
that African Americans are among the largest of nationally oppressed peoples;
the level of coordinated struggle that the labor movement and the African American people have already achieved;
the bell-weather role played by the successes and the setbacks in the struggle for African American equality with respect to the struggles of all other oppressed peoples.
The African American people play a big role in national politics. Their concentration in large urban centers, high working-class composition, heavy concentration in the labor movement, and high level of political/social organization, including churches and mosques, civil rights organizations, and social and fraternal organizations, all make it possible for these groups to politically mobilize millions, including many beyond the African American community. In national elections, African Americans vote overwhelmingly against the ultra-right, more than any other group. There are thousands of Black elected officials nationally; almost all run as Democrats. Because they vote almost unanimously as a block in most elections, African Americans have a level of influence beyond their actual numbers.
Mexican Americans together with African Americans are the two largest nationally oppressed peoples in the U.S., with Mexican Americans being one of the fastest growing sections of the population. The Mexican American population is concentrated in the U.S. Southwest, land that was originally stolen from Mexico, with U.S. domination being imposed on the many Native American and Mexican American people living in those areas.
Among the problems faced by Mexican Americans are language discrimination on the job and in schools, cultural suppression, anti-immigrant laws and abuses, lack of full political representation, and inferior job and social conditions in every area of life, in addition to police brutality and hate crimes.
Mexican Americans have played an important in U.S. history, from resistance to U.S. imperialist annexation to struggles for full civil rights for immigrants, from resistance to cultural domination to the struggle for a holiday honoring Caesar Chavez and his ground-breaking example in organizing farmworkers, and from community battles for bilingual education to struggles for voting rights and full participation in the electoral process, among many others.
Mexican Americans mainly vote Democratic and have a major and growing impact on national elections. They have emerged as perhaps the most decisive group of voters in California and the southwestern states. Nationally, there are thousands of Mexican Americans holding public office, most elected as Democrats. The Mexican American people are overwhelmingly working-class and are a major force in the trade union movement nationally. There are also many large national, regional, and local mass organizations among the Mexican American people that have a big impact on the U.S. political scene, especially with the increase in the Mexican and Mexican American population all over the country.
There are four million Puerto Ricans in the U.S. This oppressed national minority is the second largest Spanish-speaking Latin American population in the country, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans being the largest.
The overwhelming majority of Puerto Ricans in the U.S. are an integral part of the working class. Puerto Ricans have a higher rate of union membership than the general population. Puerto Ricans unite with other Latinos, as well as with African Americans, to fight against national oppression. In fighting for their self-interests on the important issues that affect them, Puerto Ricans fight for all peoples.
While concentrated in New York, especially New York City, Puerto Ricans are found in every state of the Union. New York, however, is where Puerto Ricans first organized for political and labor representation as well as for issues dealing with their homeland.
The features of the Puerto Rican national minority in the U.S. cannot be completely understood without taking into account Puerto Rico as a U.S. colonial possession. Puerto Rico is an oppressed colonial nation. Colonial oppression takes many forms, from control of the economy by subsidiaries of U.S. corporations to imposition of U.S. death penalty laws on Puerto Ricans. This colonial oppression is the main reason Puerto Ricans have been forced to immigrate to the U.S.
The first step to freedom from this oppression is the acquisition of their internationally recognized right to independence and self-determination for Puerto Rico.
U.S. colonialism has forced Puerto Ricos economy into dependency. In order for Puerto Ricans to exercise their right to independence, it must be able to break with the colonial dependency that the U.S. has forced on them; otherwise independence would be a sham. We support the full transfer of all powers to the Puerto Rican nation and monetary compensation with no strings attached to Puerto Rico to make up for the super-exploitation of Puerto Ricans and for colonial oppression. Usage of those funds is to be wholly decided by Puerto Ricans so that Puerto Rico can develop freely.
A free and independent Puerto Rico would not mean that all Puerto Ricans in the U.S. would go back to Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans in the U.S. are a historically constituted community that has permanence.
There are many unique features to the national struggles of American Indians in the U.S. Issues of sovereignty and treaty rights, language and cultural rights, fishing and hunting rights, land rights, health care, and education give a different character to these struggles, which vary from nation to nation. Also, abuse and mismanagement by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), as well as tribal government issues, impact on Native American forms of organization and struggle. Native Americans have played an important role in the ironwork, construction, and other industries in some regions of the country and have a long history of struggle for survival and democratic rights.
The attempted genocide of Native Americans must be recognized and acknowledged by honoring treaties and tribal sovereignty, by reparations and affirmative action for Indian nations as well as for urban Indians, and by the replacement of the BIA with a body composed primarily of representatives of Indian nations.
Some tribes play an active, vigorous role in the electoral process. The growing political clout of some tribes contrasts with the most vicious effects of racism on the living conditions, education, employment, health, and survival of many American Indians, who on some reservations are subjected to the worst possible living conditions, highest infant mortality rates, highest rates of disease and suicide, and highest unemployment of any nationality. The growth of gambling casinos on many reservations has not alleviated conditions for the large majority of American Indians and is not a solution to the racism and national oppression they face.
Other Indigenous Peoples
Other indigenous peoples, including Aleuts, Inuit, and native Hawaiians, have their own cultures and traditions. Hawaii, one of the most multi-racial states, had its independent monarchy overthrown by an invading army and was a colony of the U.S. for many decades. Native Hawaiians face national oppression in addition to the problems faced by Hawaii as a whole, with distinct language, cultural, and economic issues.
The U.S., contrary to mythmaking in many U.S. histories, maintains several colonies around the world. To hide this fact, the government uses the term protectorate or commonwealth to describe the occupied nations. The U.S. maintains colonies in Guam, the Virgin Islands, and Samoa, whose populations have no vote, no say, and no sovereignty.
The labor movement has in recent years embraced the importance of unity between immigrant and native-born workers. Not only did anti-immigrant sentiment and racist repressive laws allow bosses to relegate immigrant workers to near-slavery conditions with no recourse, but it also undercut the attempts by native-born workers to organize unions and win concessions from management. Attacks on immigrants in farm fields, at the borders, and by law enforcement lay the basis for undermining everyones rights. Raids against so-called illegal immigrants often also impact legal immigrants and members of families that have been citizens for many generations.
The U.S. has large communities of immigrant workers. These workers are often super-exploited, working in the most primitive, unhealthy, non-union conditions. Each immigrant group faces its own national oppression, and many face racial oppression as well. Basic human and labor rights are often denied them. Thousands of undocumented, mainly agricultural workers crossing the border with Mexico are subjected to the murderous policies of the Border Patrol and racist vigilantes. They are hounded and chased down like criminals. Hundreds have tragically died or been murdered, especially in border areas, for simply trying to unite their families or find a better life. Many immigrants come with advanced degrees but are relegated to the lowest paid jobs, such as housekeepers, street vendors, taxicab drivers, kitchen crews, and similar occupations.
Latinos are extremely diverse culturally and in terms of national origin. For most Latinos, the common use of Spanish and the shared experience of discrimination in the U.S. are forging unity among them. At the same time, some immigrants from Latin America speak an indigenous language as their first language or do not speak Spanish at all. Over half of all Latinos in the U.S. are foreign-born and face discrimination as immigrants, including Brazilians whose language origins are Portuguese.
Many people come to the U.S. as a result of wars with either direct U.S. military involvement or surrogates financed and trained by the U.S. People from many countries emigrate to the U.S. because of dire economic situations in their home countries. Reactionaries use this immigration to bolster their claims that the U.S. is a beacon of freedom. But it is actually a condemnation of U.S. transnationals and their crass exploitation abroad. People often immigrate to the U.S. looking for economic survival, and are refugees from the economic policies of U.S. imperialism, and from the neo-colonial, neo-liberal free trade exploitation experienced around the world.
Many refugees fled their countries due to right-wing dictatorships and death squads supported and trained by the U.S., such as in Guatemala, El Salvador, and elsewhere in Central America.
Many immigrants from the Caribbean are trying to escape the U.S. stranglehold on their home countries. They include Dominicans, Haitians, Jamaicans, and others who play vital roles in many communities in the U.S.
Haitian immigrants, from one of the poorest countries in the world, have experienced U.S. support for dictators and death squads, U.S. attempts to subvert and co-opt popular democratic movements, and direct exploitation by U.S., French, and other transnationals. Once in the U.S., they face continued impoverishment, heath crises, racism and discrimination.
There are increasing populations of immigrants from countries in Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe, who have come to the U.S. in recent years, fleeing economic oppression, war, decreasing living standards, lack of opportunity, famine, and genocide.
Arabs and Middle Eastern Peoples
More than six million people of Arab ancestry live in the U.S., including such nationalities as Palestinians, Iraqis, Lebanese, Syrians, Egyptians, Algerians, Yemenis, and Saudi Arabians, concentrated in communities in Michigan, Illinois, California, and New York. Most are workers, with many active in the labor movement and otherwise active politically. Thousands of Iranian Americans also live in the U.S. Some people from all these nationalities have been citizens of the U.S. for generations; at the same time, many are recent immigrants.
As a result of U.S. aggression against Afghanistan and Iraq and support of Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and refusal to accept the existence of a co-equal Palestinian Arab state, a substantial majority of Arabs, Muslims, and South Asian peoples in the U.S. have become active opponents of the ultra-right. Discrimination against them, which dramatically increased following 9/11, has intensified their opposition to the current course of U.S. domestic policy. This heightened discrimination and oppression includes racist violence, registration with the FBI, imprisonment without due process or legal counsel, and mass deportations.
The demonization of Arabs, Muslims and South Asians does not make anyone safer. It is in reality a support for the aggressive military policies of the U.S. government and a racist justification of oppression. It has provided an excuse for stepped up racial profiling, which affects not just Arab and Middle Eastern peoples but all people of color.
Asians and Asian Americans
Asian Americans come from many different nations, with different cultures, different histories, different languages, and different politics. The widely varying conditions in their homelands have a big impact on the consciousness, level of organization, and integration into U. S. society of the different Asian immigrant groups. While a large number of Asian Americans are foreign-born, millions of Asian Americans are from families that have been living in the U.S. for generations.When immigrants arrived in the U. S. and under what conditions are big factors in the level of political consciousness of Asian American communities. During World War II, many Japanese Americans, most of whom were citizens, wrongly faced forced incarceration in internment camps. They have a different life experience and political history than Vietnamese who immigrated during the turmoil of the defeat of U. S. armed forces in the mid-1970s. Filipinos whose parents or grandparents came to the U. S. in the 1920s to work in the agricultural fields of California have different national issues than South Koreans who immigrated following World War II. Cambodians, Laotians, Indonesians, Koreans, and national minorities from within those countries endure virulent racism, discrimination, and forced exclusion from major parts of society.
For several decades during the last century, the Philippines was a protectorate of the U.S., and many Filipinos immigrated during that time and subsequently, many to work in the agricultural and canning industries. Filipinos played important roles in early efforts to unionize farmworkers on the West Coast and in Hawaii.
Pacific Islanders also come from countries and lands with widely varying political and economic conditions, from colonies of the U. S. like Guam, to independent nations like Fiji, to hundreds of smaller islands which are still struggling to create and maintain their own national identities. Samoans, Fijians, Micronesians, and other Pacific Islander nationalities all face national discrimination and particular forms of racial discrimination.
As more recent immigrants from Asia live in this country for longer periods, they increasingly face and understand the racial and national discrimination rife in the U. S., and increasingly struggle against that oppression. The national questions faced by Asian Americans are thus complex, varied, and need specific attention.
The Complexity and Interconnection of National and Racial Oppression
This discussion of national and racial oppression is not intended to be comprehensive or limiting. These are complex issues, intertwined with each other and with class exploitation and oppression. There are many variations in national oppression, not just broad categoriesfor example, different Indian nations have distinct histories, cultures, languages, resources, treaties, and territories, so within Indian communities there are many different national questions, not one. Within groups, too, there are variationsfor example, people of Japanese descent whose ancestors came to the U.S. during the latter part of the 1800s do not face identical issues as those who came following World War II. People from Caribbean countries who have English as their first language have different issues than those from the Caribbean whose first language is Spanish or French. We can't ignore or reduce these complexities. We have to understand, appreciate, and respond to them.
People of many nationalities face special oppression related to their national origins— issues of language, culture, history, immigration rights and status, professional status or lack thereof, historical and colonial oppression, the various reasons and pressures for their immigration, and more. Another complexity is though most discrimination that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S is directed at Arab and Middle Eastern peoples, many Latinos face racial profiling due to claims they look like people from the Middle East. For example, African immigrants have their own specific national issues but also face the generalized discrimination directed against African Americans. For example, Mexican Americans whose families have been citizens for centuries face harassment from immigration authorities due to racist assumptions based on skin color.
Our purpose is not to artificially separate discrimination and oppression into either national or racial categories, but to understand the ways they are interconnected and understand these different facets of the oppression faced by individuals and peoples.
The Struggle for Full Equality for Women
Working class women suffer additional forms of oppression and exploitation than do male workers. The capitalists gain super profits as a resultbillions of dollars each year. They also gain greater profits from male workers when male supremacy helps the capitalists divide male and female workers, weakening the struggle for all workers rights. The decrease in real wages is one of the factors forcing more women into the workforce, often into low-wage jobs or into holding two or three jobs. As a result, more women and children are pushed into poverty.
Like racism, sexism is a key tool of the ruling class against all women and against the working class as a whole. The wage differential remains between men and women in similar jobs, resulting in billions in super-profits. The gendered stratification of the job market ensures that many women are relegated to the lowest-paying, least secure jobs. Under capitalism, women workers are doubly oppressed, once as workers and again as women. Racially and nationally oppressed women face triple oppression. Women continue to be compelled to shoulder the predominate burdens of childcare and domestic household work. Treatment of women as sexual objects also brings additional profits to the capitalists and divides men and women. Cuts in social welfare programs hit single mothers and their children especially hard, with rapidly growing numbers of single mothers being driven further into poverty. Rapid increases in health care and housing costs impact single women and their children most sharply. These cuts hit women of oppressed groups even harder.
Among the forms of oppression women experience are attacks on their reproductive rights; lack of quality, affordable day care; inequality in child rearing and household work; sexual harassment on the job; and domestic and sexual violence. The special oppression of women also cuts widely across class lines, affecting promotions for women in management and networking and contract opportunities for women small business owners. This provides the potential for a progressive role for women as a whole, as an ally of the working class and the nationally oppressed. Generally, women are more politically advanced than men on many issues, including issues of war and peace and social welfare.
Women workers play a key role in assuring an alliance of the women's movement with the working class, while nationally oppressed women play such a role in the alliance with the nationally oppressed. There are long-standing and growing relationships and coalition partnering between the main women's organizations, the labor movement, and other major progressive organizations. This is an important element of building the all-peoples front against the ultra-right.
There is an ultra-right ideological attack on women's role in society and the family, trying to force women to revert to a submissive role, to limit them to issues of family and children, and to assign blame for the high rate of divorce and the feminization of poverty on women. This blame the victim approach seeks to divert attention from the ways the system oppresses women.
Men should take an initiating role in combating all instances of sexism and male supremacy in the labor and peoples movements as well as in the family. Women need and deserve an equal place in the ranks and in the leadership of the labor movement and all the peoples mass democratic movements, including the Communist Party. Men have a strong self-interest in this — greater principled unity means greater victories for all. The main expression of the unity of men and women must be in the united struggle for women's rights and equality. It is in the interests of the labor movement to stand up for the rights of working women in particular as well as of women generally. It is in the interests of all the people's movements to defend reproductive rights and basic equality for women against right-wing attack.
Youth and Students
Under capitalism, youth and students experience special oppression and exploitation. Once again capitalism gains extra profits from the special exploitation of youth by two-tier contracts providing lower wages for new hires and by extremely low minimum wages, which mostly affect young workers. Capitalists also gain from pitting generations of workers against one another. Capitalism deprives youth of free access to quality education, of cultural and sports activities, and of living wage jobs and entry-level training and apprenticeship programs, and threatens young peoples hope for a secure future.
Capitalism seeks to use youth as cannon fodder in its imperialist adventures. Working class youth and students are in a position to be a key link between youth and the working class; they are the core of a labor/youth alliance. Similarly, youth who are also specially oppressed can help ally youth with the other core forces in the struggle for social progress. The forces of ultra-right reaction attempt to appeal demagogically to the young generation, but increasingly the desire of youth for a secure future and their high social ideals move youth into on-going alliance with labor and its allies and push the youth movement in a leftward direction.
There is an ultra-right ideological assault on youth, especially youth of color. It attempts to criminalize the young generation, including the massive incarceration of African American and Latino males and also attempts to pit youth against seniors and to assign blame to youth for various social ills, such as drugs, crime, and sexually transmitted diseases. Simultaneously, there are efforts to mobilize youth to support the ultra-right, especially on college campuses and in the military.
Additional Social Forces for Progress
Gays and Lesbians
Gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and the transgenderedthe LGBT community face discrimination in housing and employment, lack full legal and civil rights, and are frequently the victims of hate crimes. As do all other people, gays and lesbians demand and deserve full and equal civil rights, including the right to marry.
The LGBT community consists of people from all classes, all sections of the country and economy, and increasingly votes against the ultra-right. LGBT organizations play an important role in many coalitions and are increasingly allied with many progressive organizations and the labor movement.
The ultra-right uses homophobia and attacks on gays and lesbians as wedges to divide its opposition. Using false notions of morals and family values, the right attempts to use homophobia to gain allies for its corporate agenda among the working class and other social forces.
Those leading the attack on gay rights also attack labor and advocate slashing budgets for social programs. The real threat to working families is not gay marriage but the ultra-right agenda of maximum profits and war. Homophobia was one of the weapons of the McCarthy-era attack on democracy, and continues to be called on by the ultra-right in attempts to split the growing unity against the right-wing program. Unity against homophobia and for gay rights is an important defense of basic rights for gays, lesbians, and all people, and is a key to building unity against the broad anti-democratic agenda of the right. Discrimination in housing, employment, education, as well as hate crimes against gays and lesbians, need to be punishable by law where they are not, and enforced where they are.
Farmers and the Rural Population
All working people are affected by the chronic crisis in rural America. Food prices are soaring. Family farmers, farm workers, and workers in food processing who place that bounty on our tables receive a shrinking share of the food dollar. Most of the wealth is flowing into the coffers of ADM, Monsanto, Cargill, Tyson, and other agribusiness giants. These leeches suck the lifeblood out of rural America, leaving farmers and rural communities to shrivel and die while delivering to the supermarkets and fast food chains modified and processed foods of dubious safety and nutrition.
Family farmers, farm cooperatives, and workers have a heroic history of fighting common enemiesthe banks and corporations. There was the Populist Party, North Dakotas Non-Partisan League, and the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party that embraced socialist Governor Elmer A. Benson. African American and white tenant farmers in Alabama joined the Share Croppers Union. The unity of farmers and workers was the bedrock of the New Deal.
Smashing the alliance of workers and farmers was key to the Republican rights seizure of power over the past thirty years. Methodically they targeted progressive lawmakers in predominantly rural states, replacing them with hard-line, mostly Republican supporters of agribusiness.
We support legislation to insure fair commodity prices for farmers who today sell their commodities at prices far below the cost of production. The rightwing, pro-agribusiness majority in the House and Senate are blocking such legislation.
We need federal programs that enable farmers to stay on their farms and young farmers to go into farming. We need programs to save farmland from rapacious real estate developers who are gobbling up fertile farmland. The Federal government must stop stalling and pay Black farmers the restitution ordered by a federal judge for a century of racist discrimination in farm loans. The Communist Party supports a policy of sustainable agriculture that produces safe, nutritious food, fair farm commodity prices for farmers and union wages for farm workers.
A growing movement by independent farmers, farm workers, and workers in the food processing industry is fighting for union rights and the rights of small independent farmers. But so far, those struggles are on parallel tracks that have not yet merged into one mighty voice for progressive change in rural America. This remains the urgent task yet to be completed.
Seniors and retirees are under attack by right-wing efforts to privatize Social Security, by pharmaceuticals price gouging, and by the divestment of pension plans by businesses eager to avoid their contractual obligations. Some aspects of our culture devalue seniors and the contributions they have made and are making to society, and devalue their rights to full participation in society. The increasing retirement age, the rapidly escalating cost of health care, the company demands that workers and retirees pay more for their health care, and the cutting of funds for social programs all make life more difficult for seniors, threatening their health and economic security.
The high level of organization of seniors, including union retirees groups, combined with high rates of voting, give seniors the political muscle, in alliance with the labor movement and other progressive forces to defeat the attacks and to expand social programs that provide essential support for seniors. National health care including coverage of catastrophic illness, increasing Social Security benefits and COLAs, expanded housing programs for low-income seniors, social support for culture accessible to all, acknowledging the contributions that seniors have made and continue to make to society will all help this expanding sector of society.
The Jewish People and Anti-Semitism
The six million Jews in the U.S. continue to vote heavily (more than 70%) against the ultra-right. Jewish people constitute a national group but their special problems often appear in a religious guise. Anti-Semitism continues to be an instrument of reaction. When the right-wing danger gets stronger, anti-Semitism gets worse as an instrument of division and diversion. One of the major reasons for the opposition of most Jewish people to the ultra-right is the efforts of the latter to erase the separation of church and state to favor their Christian fundamentalist allies.There have long been strong progressive trends among the Jewish people on a wide range of domestic issues and for peace. Most Jewish people favor a two-state solution and an end to the occupation of the Palestinian Arab lands. However, a substantial number are also influenced by right-wing Israeli demagogy. While most Jews are workers — more now among white-collar workers — there are some in the upper echelons of the transnationals and among the so-called neo-conservatives, but they constitute a small percentage of those categories, as well as of the Jewish people as a whole.
Social Movements for Progress
There are other class and social forces, social movements, and political tendencies which play important roles in the political life of our country. These include professionals, the disabled and mentally ill, and small business people. Similarly, movements in support of improved public education and public health care, for peace, and for reforming and democratizing our electoral systems; environmental organizations; civil liberties organizations; independent media groups; various community and neighborhood organizations; and democratic progressive sections of religious denominations and organizations, all may ally themselves with the working class.
At times, one or another struggle led by these groups can be the sharpest battle in a region or in the nation as a whole, galvanizing new support, understanding, and activism. For example, the battles to protect and expand Social Security and to defend pension rights bring together not only senior organizations but also organizations of union retirees, in coalition with the labor movement and both progressive and mainstream political forces. The massive worldwide peace movement involves tens of millions directly, and hundreds of millions who support and agree with the goal of building a peaceful world.
It is not our intention to make a comprehensive estimate of all social movements, as this changes rapidly and is evaluated regularly by our National Committee. Here we give some examples of how social movements and currents are related to our estimate of the balance of forces and strategic policy.
Our people have a rich heritage of many kinds of culture, a heritage which needs to be celebrated, supported, developed, preserved, and encouraged. Public support for the arts, the encouragement of many forms of cultural expression, appreciation of the rich diversity of ethnic and multinational cultural celebrations are all part of our struggle for ending racism, prejudice, and negative stereotypes, and for deepening our education about the important contributions of all peoples to our multicultural country. Many forms of artistic expression have a humanistic, democratic contenteven some commercial art formsand can and do contribute to the struggle against the ultra-right. Many popular artists support progressive candidates, take pay cuts to appear in humanistic films, volunteer for fund raising efforts for pro-people causes, make public statements about crucial political issues, and join demonstrations and marches.
The increasing commodification of mass culture and the restriction of the availability of some forms of art only to the wealthy undermine the democratic participation of all in developing progressive culture based on that rich heritage. The entertainment industry fosters a popular culture which brings it the greatest short-term profits rather than an all-sided development of all forms of culture. This distorts education and culture, and increasingly impoverishes and limits the cultural forms available to masses of people. Corporate sponsorship of culture, in addition to providing an alternative form of advertising, also tends to restrict or censor any progressive or anti-corporate content.
Progressive, democratic artists and cultural workers struggle to create art that reaches and involves the working class and all people, often in the face of serious obstacles — lack of funding, difficulty being heard over the din of commercialism, small audience base, and lack of encouragement and support for anything that challenges the dominant capitalist culture. People's artists create for picketlines, for mass movements, for various forms of independent media, and for venues outside mainstream commercialism, and as expressions of resistance to the system and the lack of choices and future, especially of youth. Sometimes artists who work in commercial media struggle to report or grapple with the truth, running up against the barriers the system places in their way. They search for ways of combating the anti-democratic, chauvinistic culture promoted by the ultra-right.
Developing a vibrant people's culture and an appreciation for the cultural expressions of all peoples are essential parts of building mass struggle against the system, a way of offering an alternative vision, a way of providing hope, a means of communicating working class, democratic values, and a venue for honoring all positive aspects of our multicultural society.
Health Care Struggles
In many countries, health care is a constitutional right, but not in the United States. Unionized workers are forced to negotiate lower wages to pay for their health benefits. Unorganized workers are left with little or no real access to health care, which forces them to pay for their health services out-of-pocket often beyond their means. Over 45 million people are in that position of having to make choices among critical needs such as medicines, hospital appointments, food, education, and housing. Another 40 million have woeful health insurance benefits.
In the United States, health care is a big business commodity with a big price tag, comprising 14% of the US GNP. Removing profit from the Wall Street-controlled health industry can fully fund a system that puts health before profit.
Communists support a health care system that is comprehensive and free with guaranteed access to quality care whenever needed. But a health care system is more than just medical care. Health care also means prevention of occupational and community environmental hazards and infectious conditions that threaten peoples health. In addition, the lack of affordable housing has become a major public health problem. A comprehensive health care system means that all health workers in hospitals and community clinics must reflect the populations they are servingwe support the aggressive application of affirmative action programs for equal access to medical, nursing, and other professional training and education programs.
Organized labor, while protecting its own hard-won benefits, is beginning to see the need and necessity to unite with other national and community-based organizations in the fight for a national health system that provides quality, guaranteed health benefits for everyone.
Progressive and Democratic Religious Movements
Almost all forms of organized religion have within them organized segments of progressive and democratic religious activists, who seek to make their moral values of peace, equality, and justice into a positive force for progress. They increasingly confront the efforts of the ultra-right to mobilize religious groups for reaction. Many religious organizations have long traditions of progressive activism, and they increasingly ally themselves with the labor movement, the peace and justice movements, anti-capitalist globalization movements, and with all democratic movements, and participate in efforts to build people-to-people international solidarity.
There is an as yet small trend among the religious community which considers capitalism as immoral and is moving towards socialism and even Communist Party membership, in large part motivated by the high moral standards based on their religious beliefs. The Communist Party welcomes these developments and expects them to grow.
International Solidarity and the Struggle for Peace
The peace movements worldwide constitute a major force against imperialism and aggression. The unprecedented actions around the world against the start of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the largest coordinated demonstrations in history with over 12 million participants, showed the broad appeal, mass sentiment, and willingness to struggle for peace across boarders and continents.
The peace movement in the U.S. is growing beyond the traditional peace organizations to also include many other social forces and allies, including sections of the labor movement. Our people have a material interest in ending the attempts to use military power to dominate the worldthe money which is used to invade and control other countries and regions is desperately needed in our country to address the pressing needs of our people. The immoral and wasteful appropriation of our tax dollars for the imperialist interests of U.S. monopoly capital drains the public treasury of money essential to guarantee adequate services, programs, and benefits for our people. The Bush administrations threats of more aggression against more countries means that this issue will continue to be one of the over-arching issues of our time.
The U.S. government is the main imperialist power in the world and is therefore the main threat to peace worldwide. The Communist Party and progressive forces in the U.S. have a responsibility to our own people and to the people of the world to build the broadest, strongest, ever-growing peace movement opposed to U.S. imperialist aggression anywhere in the world. We have a responsibility to all past, present, and potential future victims of direct U.S. military aggression, including Cuba, Vietnam, and North Korea.
Building international unity against war and aggression is increasingly a matter of human survival. Unity against the development and use of nuclear weapons and against expanding the arms race into space is an escalating necessity.