The communists are wrecking this country!” a senior citizen shouts at me at an event, as a bemused bystander looks on, rolling her eyes, thinking the old geezer is out of his mind. “They’re in the Democratic Party! They’re in the unions! They’re in the universities! They’re in the public schools!”
The bystander stares in embarrassment at this modern incarnation of Joe McCarthy. Please, sir. Go renew your membership to the John Birch Society.
Too bad the doubter hadn’t been on stage at the auditorium of Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School in New Haven, Connecticut. There, People’s World, the house publication of Communist Party USA, held its annual Amistad Awards ceremony, where it honored three individuals: former state senator Ed Gomes, a steelworker; state representative Edwin Vargas, a teacher; and Laurie Kennington, president of Local 34 for clerical and technical workers at Yale. They were “cheered on,” said People’s World, by family, friends, co-workers, elected officials, and union and community leaders. They were joined on stage by the previous award recipient, who today is president emeritus of the Connecticut AFL-CIO.
“From the opening video and drumming to the remarks of the awardees, songs, youth slide show and finale,” began the report in People’s World, successor to the Daily Worker, “an atmosphere of unity and optimism inspired the entire multi-racial audience.” All the awardees, said the article, “praised the vision and work of the Communist Party in their communities.”
The Amistad Awards are presented annually on the occasion of the anniversary of Communist Party USA. This was the 94th, if you’re keeping tabs.
“They’re trying to turn the working class into the working poor and the only ones who will stop it are people like you in this room,” rallied Senator Gomes, himself a former union organizer, specifically for Local 2216 United Steel Workers in Bridgeport. It was enjoyable to have served in the Connecticut senate, he said, but his best experience was union organizing. He urged everyone to keep the pressure on elected officials to meet the needs of the masses.
State Representative Edwin Vargas had also been a union president prior to joining the state legislature. He had chaired the Human and Civil Rights Committee for the American Federation of Teachers and became president of the Hartford Federation of Teachers. He spent thirty-five years teaching in Hartford public schools. He said that although he had received many honors and recognitions in those capacities, this communist commendation was particularly fulfilling because “this is an award from people who are the hard core of the movement.”
No question about that. If you’re looking for the hardest of the hard-core, it’s tough to beat the comrades at People’s World and their acolytes.
Speaking of whom, Vargas invoked the name of the great revolutionary saint and fighter for social justice, Che Guevara. Quoting the “progressive” icon, Vargas asserted that “the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love”—the sort that the beloved Che embodied. He said that justice cannot be achieved without peace. To that end, one of Vargas’s goals in the Connecticut state legislature is to figure out how the state can transition from an economy aided by military production to some better means of industry, one geared toward labor, peace, and the environment.
For years, this extraordinarily liberal state has benefited mightily from major military contracts and manufacturing, a vital lift to its industrial base. Vargas and allies hope to change that.
Naturally, Vargas is a big supporter of Barack Obama, for whom he organized Latinos in 2008. He was chair of the Hartford Democratic Party and is involved with the Democratic National Committee. He is a longtime member of the Democratic Socialists of America.
Rounding out the trio was Yale’s Laurie Kennington, who praised the work of a local group called New Elm City Dream and of the Young Communist League for their “commitment to fight unemployment.”
In truth, the Young Communist League has long been committed to more than just jobs. In the 1930s, it refused to waver one inch from the Stalinist party line. The young American Bolsheviks in the YCL were completely subservient to the Soviet Union. At the Seventh World Congress in Moscow in 1935, smack in the middle of Stalin’s famines and mass purges, the Communist International described “the Young Communist League of the United States” as “a great success.”
Unfortunately, the Young Communist League didn’t die with the Comintern and USSR. Laurie Kennington considers it still a great success. And this particular evening in New Haven, the comrades from the Young Communist League were gathered among the faithful. The young Marxists presented an inspiring slide show amid the singing, drumming, chanting, shouting, and howling.
Also in attendance were Kennington’s parents. She recognized them as having traveled all the way up from Durham, North Carolina, where they had been earlier marching in the Moral Monday protests against the Republican governor and legislature. If you’re not familiar with the Moral Monday movement, think of it as a southern version of Occupy Wall Street, though perhaps a shade further to the left. Kennington expressed pride that her parents had been arrested during a Moral Monday protest.
If the Moral Monday cadre has its way, perhaps with an influx of tens of thousands of more northerners, it might be able to fundamentally transform the reliably conservative state of North Carolina. With some help from the left-wing university community in Raleigh-Durham, perhaps just enough good-hearted, open-minded, “tolerant,” and enlightened “progressives” could nudge this red state forward, saving it from its backwater, Bible-thumping roots—to become something perhaps along the lines of Virginia in 2012, or maybe even Maryland or Connecticut. One can dream.
And dreams were indeed on display on that public school stage in New Haven. Just twenty years ago, redistributive policies in America and around the world were completely discredited. Ronald Reagan had relegated them to the ash-heap of history where they belonged. Even Bill Clinton, a Democrat, was compelled to declare that big government was finished. But then came Barack Obama. The liberal left and “progressive” left and communist left rallied behind him and are now working together and riding high. No apologies, no shame, and no external criticism.
Capturing the spirit of the new zeitgeist in New Haven was the Rev. Scott Marks. Yes, as usual, the Religious Left was there. It always is, despite communists’ open contempt for religion—which included murdering countless thousands of priests, pastors, nuns, bishops, monks. The pastor offered up a closing benediction, bringing the secular faithful to their feet as he called for more vigorous community organizing to “move forward” the battle for a new, fundamentally transformed America. “I will not go back!” assured the good reverend. And neither will his comrades.