The Poor People’s March will soon be taking place in D.C. And folks — I’m here to tell you — it’s time to put on our marching shoes. We’re going to D.C. and we’re going hundreds strong! And if you haven’t signed up already, I have just one question for you: What on earth are you waiting for — because this is going to be a really important march.
It’s important because what the Poor People’s Campaign has put together promises to be the first serious national protest for economic and social justice since the start of the Biden presidency. It’s true: there have been other demonstrations and rallies, but they haven’t been on the scale and scope of what’s needed to address the crisis the country is facing.
If America doesn’t address these deaths from gun violence, gun violence may well be the death of America.
And you know as well as I do, we’re in one helluva of crisis: What else can you call the senseless massacres of our children, mothers, fathers, and neighbors in Uvalde and Buffalo? And a few weeks before that there were the shootings at the subway station in Brooklyn. Gun violence is out of control and has been for some time. Sometimes I think that if America doesn’t address these deaths from gun violence, gun violence may well be the death of America. And that’s an outcome we cannot countenance: We cannot and will not sit idly by and allow our working class and people to perish in a hail of gunfire.
And that’s why we march. We march because marching matters just like voting matters. Don’t let anyone tell you that they don’t. Because incredibly, there are voices out there that are saying just that.
I’ll tell you a little story: The day after the news broke about the Supreme Court getting rid of abortion, I was scrolling on Facebook, and a video on the pending decision from one of these left Democratic Party groups caught my eye. I click on it and there’s that dapper-looking dude in the sports coat and bow tie. And he’s basically telling the watching audience that voting doesn’t matter. The fact that the Democrats hold the Oval Office and both Houses of Congress is not enough, he contends.
And it’s a good thing I was sitting down because next thing you know, I received a phone call from a good friend of mine. They called after viewing a Facebook post I had made in reaction to this video. And the dude said, “Joe, I don’t think we should tell people to vote. it’s clear that ain’t working.” And then they go on to repeat the video’s talking points including this bit about “us” having control of Congress and the White House. (Of course, “we” the working class and people don’t have control of those institutions, the ruling class does.)
We’ve got to out organize our enemies.
So I replied: First of all, we have never argued that it’s sufficient to rely on voting alone. Our party has always said that it’s necessary to use every tool in the toolbox: strikes and slow-downs, occupations, boycotts, petitions, demonstrations. We’ve got to out organize our enemies — that’s the only advantage that we have — organization. This is one of the foundation stones of Marxist politics.
The ruling class has the money and the army. They control the airways, both literally and figuratively. But we — the working class and people — are on the ground. We’re in the factories, warehouses, and other workplaces. We’re in neighborhoods and on the campuses. We possess both the numbers and the ability to out organize our opponents.
But electoral work must be a key part of this effort — including in the battle for socialism. Why? Because an election campaign teaches most if not all you need to know with respect to carrying out a successful battle for power. You’ve got to learn how to organize, raise money, get out your message, build a coalition, move your forces into battle. It’s a helluva preparatory school that teaches one how to seize hold of and employ the levers of power. And that’s what elections are all about: the winning and transferring of state power. Don’t believe me? Just ask Trump and the January 6th insurrectionists.
That’s why I keep raising the need for us to begin fielding communist candidates. We’ve got to prepare ourselves for fighting for power. And if we’re not doing that, what are we doing really?
We’ve got to be knee-deep in the battle for democracy.
What we’re saying this evening, comrades, is that we’ve got to be knee-deep in the battle for democracy. Henry Winston used to argue that there is no other path leading to the socialist revolution that doesn’t lie in and through the battle for democracy. And when we talk about the struggle for democracy, to extend and deepen it, if you think about it, we’re talking about all of the issues that bring us to the table: the right to organize a union and engage in collective bargaining; a woman’s right to choose; equal pay for equal work; LGBTQ rights and marriage equality; the right of African Americans, Latinos, and Asians to live in a racist- and sexist-free environment; community control of the police; and, of course, voting rights.
And the ruling class knows this — that’s why they spend so much money and so much effort trying to divert and suppress our vote. Voting matters! As someone once said, “if voting didn’t matter, the ruling class wouldn’t pay so much attention to it.” But they know what’s at stake, and we do too.
Look, everyone knows November is going to be an uphill battle. Things are uncertain and unstable, and anxiety stalks the land. Added to that, the fascist danger is far from over. The COVID infection rate is up again along with the price of gas and everything else. And many feel that the administration in Washington hasn’t delivered on what it promised. We understand that sentiment. In some respects it’s true. The progressive agenda that we hoped and fought for is stuck in Congress. Internationally, the Biden-Harris presidency has revived a Cold War 2.0 foreign policy that seeks to isolate China, undermine Venezuela, and overthrow revolutionary Cuba. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which we have condemned, along with most of our fraternal parties, has complicated matters and raised the danger of a wider war, including a nuclear confrontation. All of this is true.
But it’s also true that the defeat of Trump two years ago opened a democratic breathing space and widened the arena of struggle. Consider, for example, the successful union organizing drives that are occurring at Starbucks, Target, and Amazon and the role now being played by the National Labor Relations Board. As we well know, those drives are emerging from the ground up and have their origins in the strikes of teachers, autoworkers, and graduate students of the past few years. Workers have a new sense they can win and are beginning to feel their power as a class. There’s no way the union drives would have succeeded under Trump and the formerly hostile NLRB.
The point here is that our class and people are more than ready to stand up and fight. What’s been missing is leadership. The result has been what we’ve called a “crisis of inaction.” In other words, since the election there’s been very little mass pressure from below to pass the progressive platform that brought the Democrats into power. And it’s not that people returned home after Biden was elected, thinking everything was in good hands. No: they were never called upon to rise up and fight.
Let’s go out there and make them do it.
You know, there’s a story from the Depression years and the Roosevelt administration that’s relevant here. People were hungry, breadlines were everywhere. Everybody and their mother and father were unemployed. And in the middle of this social crisis, a delegation of workers met with FDR and presented a number of ideas to address the crisis. Among those ideas was something called Social Security and unemployment compensation. And as the story goes, Roosevelt was polite and smiled and nodded. At the end of the meeting he stood up, shook everyone’s hand and just before leaving turned and said, “Those ideas sound great. Now go out there and make me do it.”
And that’s the challenge today: to go out there and make them do it. To overcome inaction with action. Our class and people are ready to fight if called upon. Rev. Barber and the Poor People’s Campaign have issued the call. Let’s pledge today to answer it on June 18th and everyday forward until the November election and beyond.
To get on a bus to D.C., click here.
Adapted from remarks presented at the 400-strong partywide members meeting, May 31, 2022.
Image: CPUSA DC Metro Club.
Source: Communist Party U.S.A.