Communist groups hone the movement’s message
Greensboro, NC’— In 2002, a cadre of activists from a communist sect known as the Workers World Party founded a group called International Answer to organize against the invasion of Iraq. Another communist group, the Revolutionary Communist Party, helped launch the anti-war coalition Not In Our Name and staged rallies featuring celebrities such as Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon. Soon a third group, United For Peace and Justice, emerged to organize more mainstream opponents of the war who might be frightened off by the thought of marching alongside communists.
The third group mobilized hundreds of thousands of anti-war protesters in New York City and coordinated smaller demonstrations in hundreds of other US cities a month before the invasion. With recent opinion polls showing nearly half of Americans now believe it was a bad idea to go to war, the cause initiated by small communist groups has gained adherents from broad sectors of American society.
‘“The vanguard philosophy is you’re out front on stuff, and if it happens to be communists, so be it,’” said Daniel Bayer, production director for the Carolina Peacemaker and a Greensboro activist involved in a number of leftist causes. ‘“I support anyone who is willing to step out and walk point and push through the door so that others may follow.’”
Now, Revolutionary Communist Party activists ‘— including a handful in Greensboro ‘— are promoting a new campaign to force President Bush from office and reverse the course of his domestic and foreign policy. They hope it will ultimately be more successful than the anti-war movement, which failed to affect the prosecution of the war despite mobilizing wide and deep opposition.
The campaign, whose theme is ‘“The World Can’t Wait! Drive Out the Bush Regime!,’” calls for ‘“a massive day of resistance,’” including student walkouts, work stoppages and public demonstrations on Nov. 2, the first anniversary of Bush’s reelection. The call comes at a time when an increasing number of Americans are questioning whether the United States has a plan to win the war in Iraq; the White House has become embroiled in a scandal over whether its chief political advisor leaked the identity of undercover CIA undercover; and liberal anxiety runs high over the possibility of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade if conservative nominees are confirmed by the Senate.
The campaign’s bill of particulars against the Bush administration includes alleged lying to lead the country into war against Iraq, the use of torture in the anti-terrorism drive and the indefinite detention of immigrants, along with the administration’s promotion of religion and hostility to science. The campaign’s statement likens Bush to Hitler and advocates bypassing traditional electoral activism in the Democratic Party to oust him.
‘“It’s about driving out the entire regime, the whole trajectory that this country has been on since Bush took office,’” said Scott Trent, a Guilford County Department of Health employee who plays in the seminal Greensboro punk band Crimson Spectre. ‘“We’ve got a big task if we’re really talking about driving out the whole clique around him that includes the neoconservatives and the Christian fascists. What we have to do is unleash the deep well of hatred against Bush.’”
The ‘“World Can’t Wait’” campaign was launched in Greensboro on July 5 when Trent, Crimson Spectre bass player John Rash and Revolutionary Communist Party activist Robin Hopkins carried a banner in the city’s Fourth of July parade. Five Greensboro-area activists sat down with YES! Weekly on July 21 to describe the organizational foundation of the campaign, their outreach efforts to date, and what they hope to accomplish.
Tim Hopkins, a self-described communist revolutionary who lives in Greensboro, said the original signers of the ‘“World Can’t Wait’” statement include members of the Revolutionary Communist Party as well as others who are not members, such as Jeremy Pikser, a screenwriter for the 1998 movie Bulworth. Hopkins said he is uncertain whether the Not In Our Name coalition has endorsed the ‘“World Can’t Wait’” campaign, although references to the campaign on local Not In Our Name websites and in the Revolutionary Communist Party’s Revolution newspaper make it apparent that all three groupings share members.
Tina Mercado, a resident of Rockingham County who is active in the ‘“World Can’t Wait’” campaign, befriended the Hopkinses after the father of her two sons was killed by a Burlington police officer in 2004. She wrote an account of David Baker’s death in Copwatch, a local newspaper with ties to communist activists. Since her sons’ father was killed, she has embraced the revolutionary viewpoint espoused by the Hopkinses.
‘“The most horror for me is the police brutality,’” she said, fighting back tears. ‘“My sons are seventeen and twenty-one and their dad was killed a year ago. I was a regular soccer mom. That has jolted me into activism.’”
Although the ‘“World Can’t Wait’” statement doesn’t mention police abuse as a reason for opposing Bush, Mercado said the connection is intuitive.
‘“I think the cops are out here to maintain the system,’” she said. ‘“If David had been a white man out driving near the country club, he wouldn’t be dead. There’s got to be a revolution. It’s not working this way.’”
The handful of Greensboro activists participating in the ‘“World Can’t Wait’” effort ‘— including the Hopkinses, Trent, Mercado and Bayer ‘— say they are organizing support for Nov. 2 through a retail campaign of distributing fliers at least twice weekly in various locations around the Triad. They have handed out fliers at farmers markets, in Clermont Homes, and in left-leaning churches. On a recent weekend, they rubbed shoulders with local politicians soliciting votes at the Phillips Avenue community cookout in northeast Greensboro.
Tim Hopkins said a number of people have volunteered to fundraise for the campaign who wish to remain out of the public eye. The campaign needs thousands of dollars to cover printing costs and pay for newspaper advertisements.
The activists are vague about exactly what form the Nov. 2 action will take. Tim Hopkins said no steering committee will issue instructions; he suggested that people should be creative in determining what actions they might undertake. The activists declined to call for impeachment, the traditional method by which American presidents are driven from office; likewise, they said they’re not promoting anything as organized as a general strike, which might be inferred from the statement’s call to ‘“take off work.’”
‘“What we’d like to see on November second is a massive discussion in every classroom where possible, in every workplace, in every church, without interference from the media,’” Robin Hopkins said. ‘“Why are military recruiters invited onto high school campuses, but peace activists aren’t allowed to be on campus?’”
The Revolutionary Community Party, which is based in Chicago, describes its ideology as ‘Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.’ As such it shares some similarities with the Communist Workers Party, five of whose members were gunned down by the Klan and Nazis in Morningside Homes in 1979. Although both communist groups were committed to combating the Klan in the late ’70s, they also regarded each other with open hostility in political turf battles that culminated in fisticuffs on at least one occasion. Hopkins said the Greensboro members of the Revolutionary Communist Party went to South Carolina to protest a racially-motivated killing on the day their sectarian rivals in the Communist Workers Party held their ‘Death to the Klan’ march.
In the lead story of the July 24 issue of Revolution, entitled ‘“The Fascists and the Destruction of the ‘Weimar Republic’ ‘… And What Will Replace It,’” party chairman Bob Avakian expresses the viewpoint that American ‘bourgeois democracy’ is under attack by fascists such as Rush Limbaugh. But instead of defending bourgeois democracy against an attack from the right, Avakian advocates replacing it with an unspecified ‘“radically different kind of state.’”
In prose heavy on dependent clauses and political jargon, he writes: ‘“The bourgeois republic ‘— the rule of capitalism and imperialism, in its bourgeois-democratic form ‘— is in fact a repressive system of rule, rooted in a whole network and process of exploitation and oppression, which brings untold, and unnecessary, suffering to millions, and literally billions, of people throughout the world, including within the republic itself.’”
Another article is entitled ‘“Nepal: Maoists Offer Self-Criticism After Bus Bombing.’” The article acknowledges that 38 civilians on a passenger bus in Nepal were killed as a result of a bomb set by communist insurgents.
‘“It was a serious mistake on our part that explosives laid by a People’s Liberation Army unit targeting the Royal Army caused huge losses to ordinary people,’” a statement attributed to the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) reads. ‘“The contingent of the People’s Liberation Army involved in this incident and the party leadership that directly instructed it were suspended immediately.’”
So far, the Greensboro activists seem to be operating on a more modest level than their Nepalese comrades.
‘“I talked to this Cherokee bus driver who said he supported us but he wouldn’t get involved because he was peaceful ‘— which we’re not violent, but ‘— he said, ‘I will be there on November second,”” Tim Hopkins said. ‘“He posted the flier in his home, so that’s cool. His friends will see it.’”
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