Sunday, November 2, 2014

Communists of New Mexico

Carl Hatch is rolling over in his grave.

Greg Sorber/Abq Journal)
Winthrop Quigley's account in today's Albuquerque Journal of the march in solidarity with Albuquerque's Muslim community, prompted by an Oct. 24 attempt to firebomb their south side mosque, was accompanied by a picture showing a sign held up by an unseen marcher that reads "Stop The Hate." It's a sign made by the ANSWER Coalition.

That ANSWER Coalition sign also appears prominently in a march account posted by radical UNM professor David Correia on his La Jacarita blog.

Journal readers aware of the Communist-affiliated ANSWER Coalition (Act Now To Stop War And End Racism) surely spotted the sign alongside Quigley's column. Hatch, I suggest, would be spitting mad to see something like that in the state's premier newspaper, although to be fair Quigley doesn't mention ANSWER in his column, which focuses less on the march and more on what the mosque's head clergyman, the iman, and others said that fit in with Quigley's theme, which was that despite the firebombing and some other incidents where Muslims here were harassed, we aren't really bad, hateful people, which is true enough. The iman said so.

David Correia photo
Red Scare Not Chilis

Carl Hatch was a Democratic US senator from New Mexico who authored the 1939 Hatch Act, which forbade most political activity by government employees but also made it illegal for them to belong to any organization that "advocates the overthrow of our constitutional form of government," a provision used thereafter to enable witch hunts against Leftists. While the ANSWER Coalition is made up of various ethnic advocacy groups, liberal clergy groups, anti-war and anti-racism groups, most people who attend the marches and rallies they sponsor or help organize are affiliated with the Communist and Socialist groups that are the organizing force behind ANSWER.

ANSWER emerged in 2001 in response to the impending Bush-Cheney invasion of Afghanistan, and has since been behind or co-organized most US ant-war rallies, some of which have been the biggest anti war rallies in American history, although most people were entirely unaware of them since the mainstream media completely ignored them. ANSWER, and Medea Benjamin's Code Pink, which often coordinates with ANSWER to put on actions, are about the extent of the anti-war movement in the US today.

There's an ANSWER Coalition office in Albuquerque that appears to be run mainly by people who are also members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL,) which is part of the ANSWER Coalition. PSL has an active chapter here. You may recall the PSL's 2012 presidential and vice-presidential candidates, Peta Lindsay and Yari Osorio, campaigning in Albuquerque. TV station KOB interviewed Lindsay as she passed out literature at the University of New Mexico.

There have of course been Communists in New Mexico since there was Communism, as there are always a few Communists or Socialists everywhere. Even before what we think of as Communism emerged, the Natives here lived in communal societies, and Marxist scholars have studied tribes like the Zuni and their predecessors to try and figure out how they lived.

I posted awhile back about Communist Party members Lorenzo and Anita Torrez, who were the prime organizers of the famous 1951 Empire Zinc strike in Bayard, NM, made into the iconic Salt of the Earth movie by blacklisted Hollywood filmmakers. I'm not aware of any comprehensive treatment of Communism or anti-Communism in New Mexico, but just looking around the internet it looks like the raw material for such a study is there, as for example when the Eastern New Mexico State president's invitation to a Communist Party member to participate in "Communism Vs Democracy" debate in 1962 led to a crises and an emergency board of regents meeting that put an end to such evil.

Communists of America

The great surge in labor organizing in the United States in the late 1800s and early 1900s was driven largely by Communists and Socialists, a large number of whom were immigrants from Europe, and many of those immigrants were Jews, a fact leading US Capitalists were very aware of, and a largely untold story is that that explains why it was so difficult for Franklin Roosevelt to get congress to get the US involved in World War II, and why so many US Capitalists, notably Bush dynasty patriarch Prescott Bush, and Henry Ford, supported Adolph Hitler.

Communism has never seriously threatened the New Mexican way of life or the social order here, which I see as typical US Capitalism with a flavor of the old patron society left over from Spanish days, and it's never threatened to do much nationally, either.

The reasons are complex. The great writer John Steinbeck summed it by saying, "Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires."

I'd add that the US political establishment has been adept at co-opting Socialist movements, mainly by co-opting their platforms, as Roosevelt did for his New Deal which ushered in Socialist Party policies like Social Security, workmen's comp and unemployment insurance. There's also been a lot of outright oppression. Think of McCarthyism, but even before that, things like the Palmer Raids, the oppression of the IWW, which included the imprisonment and assassination of IWW leaders by the government and its agents and included things like the Ludlow Massacre up the road in Trinidad, CO. Think more recently of the assassination of nearly the entire leadership of the Black Panther Party by the FBI working with local police in Chicago and Los Angeles. The Black Panthers were not only Revolutionary Socialist in orientation but had the added disadvantage of being scary Black people. They weren't engaging in any revolutionary activity besides educating themselves and running free breakfast kitchens for inner city children and helping old people get by, but they were Socialists.

The Party For Socialism And Liberation

A side note in all this is how some of the more traditional Communist Organizations in the US have fractured and fought with each other. The PSL was founded by people who left the Worker's World Party, which itself resulted from a split in the Socialist Worker's Party, which was an offshoot of the Communist League, which was made up of members who had been expelled from the Communist Party USA. It's almost comical, really.

Although it had its Communist beginnings, PSL uses the term Socialism, and many people refer to themselves as Socialists when they are actually Communists because it sounds more palatable in the US where the word Communism has been demonized since the Russian Revolution. In my view it's a distinction without a difference, although technically, I suppose, Communist denotes a member of the Fourth International, the official organization of the Communist Party, which is descended from the First International formed by Marx and Engels and which later came under the control of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The way Communism played out under Joseph Stalin, Stalinism, also leaves a bad taste in many Socialist's mouths, although incredibly enough, now that western scholars have access to the Soviet era archives, some scholars are saying that a lot of what we think of as Stalinism either didn't happen or was exaggerated by western intelligence agencies.

Ironically, the web site of the Fourth International of the Communist Party is called the World Socialist Web Site,

Communism Now

As I've mentioned before, Socialism, Communism, whatever you all it, isn't going to go away or be stamped out, especially not as an idea. It's a logical response to Capitalism and its ill effects, which because of Capitalism's nature will probably always exist and be devastating for many people. Human nature dictates that people are always going to try to come up with a better way, and because the existing theories about Socialism aren't hard to grasp, people become Socialists.

Rebellion is part of the human condition, a natural response to injustice. We saw how quickly, despite its inglorious demise,  the Occupy Movement rose as a response to economic injustice, and the Arab Spring, and the student uprisings in England last year, and so on. And since the Soviet Union's dissolution we have a new generation in the West that hasn't been exposed to a lifelong, from birth onward, relentless outpouring of anti Socialist and anti Communist propaganda, and who, according to at least one Pew poll, have a more favorable view of Socialism than they do of Capitalism.

 Just For The Heck Of It

As perhaps evidence that Socialism isn't seen as such a bad thing anymore, Jezebel Magazine, the popular feminist web news outlet, featured Lindsay as one of "25 Kick-Ass And Amazing Women We Love" in a 2012 layout. Part of that project was group pictures including one that included Lindsay and Sandra Fluke, the reproductive rights activist made famous when Rush Limbaugh called her a slut, and who spoke at the Democratic Convention later that year and is now running for a seat in the California state senate.

From left: Model Sara Ziff, socialist presidential candidate Peta Lindsay, Intel Science Competition finalist Samantha Garvey, Hollaback founder Emily May, and birth control advocate Sandra Fluke. Photo by Nikola Tamindzic.

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