Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Healthcare: Feeling the heat

I want an explanation as to how this got posted to the PA Blog.

We are for Obama's plan whatever it is.

Sam Webb
National Chair, CPUSA

Monday, May 11, 2009
Healthcare: Feeling the heat

by Ben Sears

On the front page of this morning's Phila Inquirer is an AP article reporting that six national organizations representing various sections of the healthcare industry are telling the President that they will offer $2 trillion in savings over ten years to help pay for a federal healthcare program. A reading of the article yields some interesting insights and some big questions. Some quotes from the article illustrate the point.

First, this offer, to be made in a letter to the President, shows that major private interests in the healthcare industry see the handwriting on the wall, are feeling the heat, and are desperately trying to influence the debate. As the article puts it, "The industry groups are trying to get on the administration bandwagon for expanded coverage now in the hope they can steer Congress away from legislation that would restrict their profitability. Insurers, for example, want to avoid the creation of a government health plan that competes with them to enroll middle-class families."

Further, the article notes that the industry proposal is short on specifics: "There is no detail on how the savings pledge would be enforced....the promised savings on private healthcare costs would accrue to society as a whole, not just the federal government. That's a crucial distinction because specific federal savings are needed to help pay to expand coverage."

Finally, what are the six groups supporting this proposal? In the last paragraph we find them listed. As expected they include the AMA, the American Hospital Association, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (i.e. the drug companies), the California Hospital Assoc, and the Greater NY Hospital Assoc. That makes five, right? And what is number 6? That would be the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Now my question: What exactly is the SEIU doing on this list along with the heavy hitters in the private healthcare environment? The article, of course, does not shed any light on this issue. Nor does it mention that as of today, over 500 labor and union related organizations including 39 state federations have endorsed the Conyers single payer bill HR 676.

Of course, we do not know what the plan that emeges from Congress and gets to President Obama's desk will look like. It will be the result of horsetrading and compromise based on power relationships. But does the presence of SEIU on this list mean that this union is giving up on, or does not support, the effort to include a public option in the final plan? If so, are they risking isolation and resentment, now or down the road, from from the forces struggling for real change in our healthcare system?


First of all, I do not want to denigrate the SEIU as a whole. They have organized many whom the broader labor monement has overlooked. Many of the locals are quite good, some have actually endorsed HR-676. But the leadership group, under controversial Andy Stern, is another matter. In fact, the largest local, UHW in California, recently revolted and has formed a new national union, NUHW. They have endorsed HR-676. See www.nuhw.org for details.

Up here in New Hampshire, we have run into SEIU people again and again, staging "health care reform" events around the state. These are well advertised and organized events, at which the focus seems to be on denigrating the single payer movement and pushing inclusion of the private insurance industry into a universal health care solution. Previously, as you probably know, they were in an alliance with AARP (the 2nd largest insurance vendor in the country) called DWF ("Divided We Fail") with a very expensive animated TV as campaign accompanied by similar organized community meetings. This collapsed, apparently over internal differences. Now the SEIU puppet show is called CTW ("Change That Works"), and they are posing as "realists" who profess to have no problem with single payer in concept but that it is right now unattainable politically. They are using the Obama euphoria (and borrowing the apparent current administration direction) to disorient people. The problem is that so far all their proposals (and this goes for Obama & Co as well) are vaporware, since there is no bill in Congress nor any document where they define exactly what they are proposing. It is as tricky to argue against them as it is to nail jelly to the wall. We, of course, have HR-676, which they never bother to mention, let alone critique in any detail.

On April 7, we attended one of their meetings in Concord (NH capitol), and brought an HR-676 fact booklet with us to distribute. We were accosted by SEIU folks, who told us we could not distribute this at the meeting. One woman who had taken our booklet was told she could not bring it into the meeting. Since it was a school building and public property, we contended that we had the right to hand out our literature, and that if they disagreed, they could call the cops. We managed to distribute a couple dozen booklets with as little disturbance as we could muster under the circumstances, while arguing with the SEIU and allied cadre. But one SEIU operative made sure we were videotaped as we left the school. Although advertised as a public meeting, SEIU people claimed that it was their private meeting with only invited sponsors (we were not "invited" to co-sponsor, in spite of being well known as the NH chapter of one of the oldest and most prestigious groups in the universal health care movement, PNHP), and that it was unfair of us to distribute our very modest literature - explanatory of HR-676 and single payer, not an attack on SEIU or any of the other sponsors.

The exact reasons why the Andy Stern group opposes HR-676 so strongly are unclear to me at this point. However, one complaint against Stern by the UHW folks in California was about a back-room deal with Schwartznegger against the Kuehl plan (SB-840, a state version of HR-676). So there is consistency of sorts.

Dave Ecklein
Lay member, PNHP

Saturday, May 9, 2009

We need to give the EFCA the best spin possible

I don't like the PA Blog posting below.

Our job is to give Card Check the best spin possible no matter what the legislation ends up containing.

If it passes we need to proclaim it a victory no matter what is in it.

We want the employers to happy. We want workers to think they won something so they maintain confidence in us and our coalition partners.

Friday, May 8, 2009
Is EFCA History?
Thomas Riggins

Now that the Democrats are approaching their filibuster proof 60 vote margin they have decided to "compromise" on EFCA (Wall Street Journal 5-7-09). They want to pass the bill with two modifications. They will retain "free" elections as demanded by the employers and get rid of the card signing provision for establishing union representation, and they will eliminate the right of arbitrators to set the contracts if the two sides can't agree. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce stated flatly the employers won't accept "government arbitrators telling an employer how to run their business." Am I wrong or are these two compromises striking at the heart of EFCA? Is EFCA history now that the Democrats have caved into the corporations? I guess there is a reason the system is called "monopoly capitalism."

Let's not have any more negative speculation like this.

Sam Webb
National Chair, CPUSA

Friday, May 8, 2009

A New Coalition Partner

I would like to call to your attention our newest coalition partner, "Growth and Justice Minnesota."

These are the folks who have been helping us with "The Minnesota Problem."

I suggest you give generously to "Growth and Justice Minnesota."


Sam Webb
National Chair, CPUSA

Thursday, May 7, 2009

My answers to comments and questions

I have received 5 comments from my excellent article "Obama, reform and the role of the left."

Best article I ever wrote.

mulligas 5 days ago
I fail to see the point of this article. It just says that Obama is better then Bush.

My answer: Don't you agree Obama is better than Bush?

jjack 5 days ago
I think the point is, or at least the point that I got out of it, is that communists should take advantage of the opportunities that have presented themselves to us rather than sitting around complaining that Obama doesn't wave his magic wand and build communism for us.

Excellent point. Now get out there and help us with fund-raising our main political activity.

halgol60 5 days ago
This is interesting: The article says

"there are political groupings of considerable influence in the administration and the Democratic Party who, while supporting Obama, will use their influence to cut down on the sweep and anti-corporate character of his initiatives."

Ummm ... how did those "political groupings" gain "considerable influence" in Obama's administration -- didn't he select members of the cabinet himself, with the approval of the now Democratically-controlled Congress? And if we are not referring to cabinet members, why don't those cabinet members get their respective "political groupings" in line with Obama's goals?

And exactly how can they "use their influence to cut down on the sweep and anti-corporate character of his initiatives" while allegedly supporting him? That statement makes no sense to me at all. Do I misunderstand the meaning of "supporting" the president's platform?

You make too much of little details. Leave analyzing to me.

Carl Davidson 5 days ago
I basically agree with this, save for a few nuances.

The left has a role as an active and militant minority, even as a large minority, on some issues. Getting out of Afghanistan is one. It has an educational role in helping minorities around a just cause become solid majorities.

I also have a problem with 'anti-corporate.' I prefer to segment the business world along the 'high road, low road' lines that are gaining wider use. One reason is that the 'more advanced' structural reforms you mention can and will likely include high-road allies that are incorporated, even major ones. Low-road financial capital is the heart of the immediate problem.

But you're right to target the far right and their unreconstructed neoliberal allies, while keeping clarity on our current alliance with Obama and other center-left forces to isolate and defeat the right.

Carl, always good to hear from you. Let's not be so quick to distance ourselves from the "low roaders." We need all the capitalists we can get to work in alliance with us.

Biresh 5 days ago
Sir I am from India. I sympathise with american socialism for obvoius reasons- USA is the most influential nation of the world. I feel that the issue of getting US troops out of Afganistan is not good for Internation socialism. Pakistan is now in dager of being grabbed by islamist forces with its nuclear weapons. This is terrible. The Reagan administration pumped billion of dollars of military aid to these very islamist forces to defeat the Sovites. When Soviet Union got disintegrated the same Reagan adm then ignored Afganistan to such an extent that today this region threatens the worls. American troops have till now preserved the stability of this region. Socialists in India, a nation closer to Afganistan also dont deny this. Your comment to involve the business classes to the road of socialist construction is commendable.

Glad to see there are a few sensible voices in India agreeing with me. You are on the ball.

Jean Clelland-Morin 5 days ago
Wow! I have posted "inappropriate comments" using sexist, racist etc. I was talking about my better-dead-than-red family who failed to indocrinate me. I am surprised that my ideas would be called "offensive" and would be censured - especially by a group that is censured in this country. Jean Clelland-Morin / 321 Sadie / San Antonio, TX 78210 / (210) 532-0165 / mmejean@sbcglobal.net

For Christ's sake. Who let this crap through the door. Wining about censorship.

This has been fun. I look forward to sensible comments.

Sam Webb
National Chair, CPUSA

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

See, it doesn't take much

I just gave Phil a little slap and that was all it took to straighten him out.

Now Phil is playing ball with Obama.

Let's keep Phil Benjamin and Art Perlo in line so things don't get out of hand.

Obama needs some leeway. We need to cut him a little slack.

Let's not get all excited when President Obama raises the age of eligibility for Social Security. We know that is coming. We need to stay composed and bite our lips.

Sam Webb
National Chair, CPUSA

Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Public Option v. Private/Profit Option
"Public" Option Vs "Private" [PROFIT] Option: Peoples' Health Care at Stake

by Phil E. Benjamin

The Administration is moving quickly toward an approach to national health care issues. It is an approach that is not what Single Payer and National Health Service advocates had hoped for. But, it is an approach that closely resembles Obama's campaign promises and offers some room for hope.

It is clear that the House, the Senate and the Administration has no intention of taking on the corporate interests in health care HEAD ON. On the other hand there is an understanding that they must do something to alleviate the crisis in health care. Corporate health interests will be curtailed; the issue is how much. Health policy people know that there is not one solution to the health care crisis. One policy directive cannot and will not stand on itself; there is simply too much intertwining of issues.

A set of policy directions are being finalized in the House and Senate with the clear White House involvement. These policy directions, each covering an aspect of the health crisis, can swing between full government responsibilities, the "Public Card," to a very large role for insurance carriers: the "Private" card.


The first step was taken when the Administration made the State Children's Health Insurance Program a permanent part of the health care landscape. While that move was anticipated; it was still a very important step. The Bush Administration had specifically vetoed this approach since it played the "Public" government card and not the "Private" insurance company card. SCHIP is where the "line in the sand" was drawn by the right wing and their for-profit agenda. This is a big point in the "Public" option column.

Laid off Workers and COBRA

The increasing crisis of unemployed workers and their inability to pay for the continuation of health insurance benefits, COBRA, that, by law, must be offered to them, had to be addressed. Less than 8% of those eligible bought COBRA. Partial Solution under the Stimulus Plan: the federal government will now reimburse the employer or health insurer for 65% of the cost of COBRA. The remaining 35% of COBRA's cost is still formidable. In hard numbers: COBRA for family coverage is about $1,000 a month; and, about $400 a month, for individual. With the federal support those numbers are reduced to: About $350 and $125 a month. This begins on March 1st, 2009. But, if a person became unemployed on and after September 1, 2008, and refused coverage, since it was too expensive, then those same workers can requalify for COBRA as of March 1, 2009. This is a check mark in the "Public" Option column, but the heavy hand of the "Private" card is ever present.

Problem: The high cost of COBRA is driven by the cost of health insurance and drug companies. Those "Private" Card costs will need to be curtailed. These costs are unnecessarily excessive and will put too high a price for this "Private" card to be maintained.

In another very important move, the Administration is strongly considering allowing workers collecting UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE to qualify for Medicaid. This is a major step forward. This is playing the "Public" card perfectly.

Medicare Buy In at 55 Years of Age

Lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 55 years, proposed by the most powerful U.S. Senator, Finance chair, Max Baucus, is playing the "Public" card to some extent. But the "Public" option card would be greater if the Medicare program were reformed to be more like its framers intended, and not the partially privatized program that has developed over the years; especially with Bush's misnamed "Medical Modernization Act of 2003." Eliminating the mis-named "Medicare Advantage" insurance company programs; federalizing the price of drugs leads Medicare back to its federal mandate and is a peoples' demand that makes complete sense.

The problem will be the cost of the "Buy In." That fee has yet to be determined, but it must be affordable. There is a fear that the fee will be "means tested"; which could lead to means testing for all of Medicare. This would be a big step backward away from the "Public" column.

Making this new Medicare program a "default" program, meaning that people who reach 55 automatically get enrolled, is crucial to success. This would just as when people rech 65 they are automatically are enrolled.

For our social insurance commitment to be effect during these legislative reform efforts we must invoke the concept of "Social Solidarity." It is those principles that prevail in France. There should be no "means testing" for any services. Everyone is in; nobody is out. To put the rich in line, a clear progressive income tax is necessary. The greed of AIG, Citibank and other parts of Corporate America sets the stage for this tax policy direction.

Increasing Eligibility for Medicaid

Baucus has proposed elevating the Federal Poverty Level [FPL] so that millions of people, including many working poor people, can access Medicaid. There are millions of working poor, many in labor unions, who do not have health insurance, but, currently, earn too much for Medicaid. This policy direction is a good thing; and, plays the "Public" card well. There must not be any cost or buy-ins for this coverage.

These regulations must be accompanied by new requirements requiring physicians to treat Medicaid recipients.

The Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan [FEHBP]

The strong rumor is that the Administration, in fulfilling its promise of universal access, will bring everyone else under the "principles" of the FEHBP. Not the Program itself.

The FEHBP is quite popular with federal employees, including postal workers. Over 80% of federal employees choose Blue Cross/Blue Shield, from a host of insurance options.

The rumor is that the Administration is also looking at Massachusetts program. That program covers over 50% of the uninsured in Mass., but there are serious funding problems. The mix of "Public" and "Private" is very much alive there. The FEHBP is heavy on the "Public" side, but the "private" side is still present, and, that presence is very costly to provide for all eligible people. Keeping the "Private" card in this program has made affordability a key issue.

A strong "Public" Option within the FEHBP, a Medicare option, would make the most "competitive" sense.

Our Role

There is a clear and present need for health care activists to continue the pressure as each of these aspects of the Administration's national health program unfolds. For years, decades, there have been coalitions formed around each of those programs. They will and should be continued, but coalitions between these groups are paramount. The street heat created by these grass roots organizations and the labor movement will be the difference.

For example, in a totally ill conceived idea, the Administration temporarlily put forward a proposal that returning veterans should use their own health insurance coverage for service related illnesses and injuries; and, not the VA hospital system. That was clearly a shift toward the "Private" and not the "Public" Card. Following the hue and cry from every veteran's organization against that policy proposal; the Administration withdrew the idea.

The Republicans will oppose every health policy move that the Administration makes. Their strategy will be to stonewall anything happening before the 2010 Congressional elections. On the other hand, the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate and control of the White House should not be wasted.

A newly created caucus, the Blue Dog Democrats, has joined the fray to defeat the strong "Public" card. This falls right in with the Republican goals. These Democrats perspective is clear. Their messages is working people and their health care needs be damned; corporate interests in health care must served.

These policy moves sets up a war between a clear role for government, the "Public" card; and, a continuation for the private health insurance and drug companies, the "Private" card. Corporate America through the insurance and drug cartels are using their millions of dollars to influence members of Congress; they are in high gear.

Clearly, the issue of costs, i.e., the excessive price of the "Private" option charged by these profiteers for their participation, continues to be the 500-pound gorilla in Congress and the White House. The struggle for the clearly less expensive "Public" Option and against the "Private" option will be carried out by hand-to-hand combat on each health proposal.

Recent NY Times Letters to the Editor, offer some salient points:

"As policymakers in congress and elsewhere debate the nation's health insurance options, especially for he nearly 50 million insured in our country, it appears that the main argument against Medicare-like coverage is that private insurers would be unable to compete with government on costs, and might be drive from the market. Isn't that like saying we should not strive for a peaceful planet because it would be bad for the armaments industry? Am I missing something?"

"What is at issue here is not how to support private health insurance companies. The issue is how to best provide quality, affordable health care for all."

And from a practicing physician in private practice for over 35 years: "Medicare and private insurance fees are the same: most private insurers base their fees on those paid by Medicare. But it is much more difficult to collect these fees from private insurance companies than from Medicare. The H.M.O.s require that I submit and resubmit claims several times. And, then they even have the chutzpah to offer a lower payment soon, rather than contractually agreed-upon payment sometime in the future. I prefer Medicare, which mostly pays promptly and with far fewer hassles for me and my staff." [PS the updated term for these HMOs is the mis-named Madison Avenue term, Medicare Advantage.

Printing a preponderance of pro-Public Card option letters for the NY Times is rather unusual. They tend to adopt the market –based system.

Health Service Issues Need Attention

While these crucial financing and system-wide issues are being debated and struggled over; there are many others below the radar that need addressing: primary care build up; community health centers financing and expanding; reforming the cash cows coffers of the large not-for-profit medical centers; training more physicians and nurses; and, the continuing anti-racist, anti-sexist struggle.

Overall Political Context

The political backdrop for these Congressional health struggles is quite cleaer. There is a growing understanding that in 2010, congressional elections could spell the future of not just the new Administration, but the future of our country and world. A repeat of the 1992-94 Clinton failures on health care, which gave us the Newt Gingrich Congress of 1994-2000 and another generation of corporate greed, i.e., Reaganism, is not an option. The world economic and financial crisis does not allow the option of allowing Republican rule.

Historically, the failure in the late 1970s to pass the National Health Insurance and Labor Law Reform cleared the way for mass dissatisfaction with Jimmy Carter, and the Reagan period was born. Going back10 years before that, the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965 would have assured the election of Democrats in the 1968 elections had not the Democrats stood behind and widened the Vietnam War. Coincidently, labor law reform is being demanded again by organized labor; the Employee Free Choice Act – EFCA.

Let's get to work!

Erica Smiley attends John Birch Society 50th Anniversary Dinner and brings back the prize


I have good news to report. We have lost some coalition partners. Not to worry. We have picked up a new coalition partner.

Many of you have listened to the interview of our brilliant and beloved Erica Smiley on the Florida ABC affiliate talk show welcoming our work with the John Birch Society in defending the Constitution.

This bold initiative in seeking out new coalition partners has paid off handsomely. Better than some of our other pay-days.

Erica Smiley is one of our bright young comrades with a bright future in our new CPUSA. She is delightful. Erica is brilliant. She is bold. I mean Erica is B-O-L-D. Who else would have ever thought we could work with the John Birch Society?

I am happy to report that we have picked up a new coalition partner.

Erica Smiley is now our new liaison with the John Birch Society.

Let's give Erica a big round of applause.

We are now working with a very broad political spectrum ranging from Barack Obama to the John Birch Society.

This is not an odd alliance. George Wallace was a Democrat. Democrats are our coalition partners.

We are in the mix with our new ideas and new friends.

In the future we have plans to meet with Cliff Kincaid and the Mellon family as we reach out from our new offices for new friends. We want to discuss leasing space to Accuracy In Media.

All it took was a bold initiative on Erica Smiley's part to reach out to the John Birch Society on an ABC talk show and we have made powerful new friends.

We will see what we can do about getting the John Birch Society to acknowledge the existence that the Constitution of the United States of America has a Bill of Rights beyond the 2nd Amendment and we will work to convince the John Birch Society to tone down its anti-Semitic and racist rhetoric.

Already our initiative has paid off.

Look at the Tea Party movement. You don't see any white sheets. We have convinced them to leave their white sheets at home on the bed where they belong. This saves us all embarrassment, and it saves the washer-women a little work trying to get the white sheets clean.

Our membership may be dwindling but we are slowly but surely picking up new coalition partners.

We should be planning to hold our own 90th Anniversary Dinner in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Jarvis, do you want to put on your Russian fur hat you wore in Red Square and check to see if they have a Starbucks Coffee Shop in Appleton where we can hold our 90th Anniversary Dinner? Why don't you find out if Ron Paul would like to speak, too. If Ron isn't free maybe check and see if Rand Paul is free. I like his gestures suggesting he is for an alliance of everyone from the John Birch Society to the Greens and the left. That sounds so nice.

Over the next few months we will be seeing the Young Americans for Freedom and the Young Communist League working with-in the Constitutional framework to ban books and magazines in public libraries and in schools. Our aim will be to put the Ten Commandments in every classroom in America.

Sam Webb
National Chair, CPUSA

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Obama, reform and the role of the left

This is me, Sam Webb
Author: Sam Webb
People's Weekly World Newspaper, 05/01/09 15:54

After the first, perhaps over analyzed, hundred days of the Obama administration, it is fair to say that President Obama is a reformer and we are entering an era of reforms, possibly radical reforms.

Some on the left (ignoring the right wing talk shows and their fantastic claims about Obama’s socialist pedigree) mockingly dismiss the new president and his reform inclinations, saying that his main mission is merely to save capitalism. Even if that is true, and there is no reason to doubt it, what does it tell us — that he is neither a politician of the left nor an advocate of socialism? Well, we already knew that.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, too, had no aspirations to change the foundations of capitalist society. But he realized that in order to preserve capitalism it had to be modified (and, yes, it can be modified), and he had to respond to the anger and yearnings of millions of Americans caught in the web of a seemingly intractable economic depression.

Given the contemporary economic crisis, Obama appears to be of a similar mind, though he comes to the White House with deeper democratic and reform sensibilities than FDR.

So far, Obama’s presidency has not only broken decisively from the right-wing extremist policies of the Bush administration, but has also taken measures domestically and internationally that go in a progressive direction.

Whether this continues and takes on a consistently progressive, pro-people, radical reform character isn’t a sure bet, however. Much like with the New Deal of the 1930s, it will be the outcome of contested and fluid process stretching over time, taking multiple forms, and pivoting around the expansion of citizenship rights (socialized health care, for example) and the reconfiguration of the role of government to the advantage of working people.

Socialism may be an objective necessity for our country, an appealing idea to many ordinary Americans (a recent Rasmussen poll found that 20 percent favored socialism over capitalism and another 27 percent were unsure which was better), and a vision that we on the left want to vigorously popularize, but it isn’t yet on the immediate political agenda — clearly, neither the current balance of forces nor the thinking of millions of Americans is at that point.

We are still in a democratic, increasingly anti-corporate, phase of struggle. In the course of this, political conditions could mature over time to the point where more advanced solutions – such as military conversion to peacetime and green production, a shorter work week, a “war” on poverty and inequality, public democratic ownership of critical economic sectors, and, depending on the dialectics of struggle, socialism – come to the fore of the people’s agenda.

But that is ahead of us. Currently, the level of mobilization of the diverse coalition that elected Obama doesn’t match what is necessary to win his administration’s immediate legislative and political agenda, let alone more far-reaching reforms.

A favorable alignment of forces exists, to be sure. But political majorities are consequential only to the degree that they are an active and organized element in the political process.

Moreover, the opposition is formidable. Right-wing Republicans experienced a crushing defeat, but no one should write them off; they have consolidated their grip on the Republican Party, are well funded, and are clever at exploiting popular grievances and resentments.

Finance capital will attempt to minimize losses to its balance sheet, rob the public till where it can, and restructure the regulatory environment along lines that favor speculation and a casino economy.

Other powerful sections of big capital – energy, military, health care, pharmaceutical and other giants of corporate America – will also fiercely resist measures that collide with their political and economic interests.

Finally, there are political groupings of considerable influence in the administration and the Democratic Party who, while supporting Obama, will use their influence to cut down on the sweep and anti-corporate character of his initiatives.

Thus, the struggle of the nation’s progressive majority — the working class, the racially oppressed, women, young people and others — is two-sided.

On the one hand, it has to battle stop-at-nothing right-wing extremists and their backers who are intent on defeating Obama and the people’s coalition that supports him.

On the other hand, it has to struggle (but in a constructive, unifying way) within the multi-class coalition that Obama leads, to put their essential pro-working-class and democratic stamp on the reform process and the political direction of the country.

And herein lies the role of the left. Its main task, as it has been throughout our country’s history, is to assist in reassembling, activating, uniting and giving a voice to common demands that unite this broad majority as well as draw in other people who didn’t vote for Obama.

The left's political analysis, solutions to today's pressing crisis and a vision of socialism, rooted in a democratic ethos and practices, and not tied to a universal “model” imported from the 20th century, will receive a fair and favorable hearing from millions of Americans to the degree that left activists are active participants in the main labor and people’s organizations struggling for vital reforms today — jobs, health care, retirement security, quality public education, equality and fairness, immigration reform, a foreign policy of peace and cooperation, and a livable environment and sustainable economy.

Those who narrow down the role of the left to simply being a critic of every move of the Obama administration and/or insist on left demands as the only basis of broad unity limit the left’s capacity to be a part of a much larger coalition that could make America “a more perfect union.”

Sam Webb (swebb@cpusa.org) is national chair of the Communist Party USA, founded in Chicago in 1919 as a working class revolutionary party. Before inheriting the post of CPUSA National Chair, Webb served as the Communist Party state organizer in Michigan from 1978 to 1988 overseeing the orderly dismantling of Communist Party Clubs. He received a master’s in economics from the University of Connecticut while studying tavern life. Webb led a million dollar effort to completely remodel the Communist Party's aging headquarters by providing Party leaders with modern glass cubicles for offices from which they can look out upon red brick walls symbolizing the contrast between 20th Century socialism and "new thinking."

Please note: The Communist Part USA welcomes your comments. We would like you to look at Sam's picture above taken while he was hard at work writing this in one of the many tanning booths liberally scattered around the CPUSA's National Headquarters for use by Party leaders, and try to guess if this was written as a joke or is to be taken seriously. T. Albano, Editor, People's Weekly World newspaper

My kind of thinking... really new thinking

This is the kind of clear new thinking unfettered with class that I like!

This is from our friends at NDN--- New Democrat Network.

Sam Webb
National Chair, CPUSA

Here in the Real World They're Shutting Detroit Down


Submitted by Winograd and Hais on Thu, 04/30/2009 - 3:24pm

Auto Bailout Auto Industry Barack Obama Economy GM

Once upon a time, not so long ago, in a city at the heart of the American continent, General Motors produced cars, like Pontiac’s “Little GTO,” celebrated in Beach Boys songs that captured the thrill of driving Detroit’s latest creations. Today, as GM struggles to appease the government’s auditors just to stay alive, Kris Kristofferson, with a little help from Mickey Rourke, curses the financial wizards from Wall Street that are “Shutting Detroit Down” while “livin’ it up in that New York town.”

Never has the inherent tension between the investor class and the country’s manufacturing sector been more pronounced or the stakes in this particular poker game higher for the future of America. Chrysler may be forced into bankruptcy first, but it’s GM's downfall that represents the true mid-American earthquake.

Back in the late 1950s, General Motors so dominated the American automobile market that its corporate goals were focused on achieving a 60% market share. The hubris of its executives led them to decide to pick up more and more costs for medical insurance, pensions and retiree benefits, beginning GM’s slide down a slippery slope of poor financial performance

This posed a huge but not initially recognized risk to GM. By taking on these obligations that didn't show up as a cost or balance-sheet liability until the government changed its accounting rules in 1992 and required companies to show the cost of “other post-employment benefits” (OPEB) on their books, General Motors lit a ticking time bomb that has now exploded in its face. In 1972, as GM came the closest it would ever come to achieving its sixty-percent market share goal, GM was paying the entire health insurance bill for its employees, survivors and retirees, and had agreed to "30 and out" early retirement that granted workers full pensions after 30 years on the job, regardless of age. Its world then began to come apart.

In 1973, OPEC’s embargo tripled the price of oil. GM failed to respond quickly enough to the consumer’s sudden demand for fuel-efficient cars. At the same time, the Japanese with their then superior, lean manufacturing techniques stepped into the vacuum, gaining a foothold in the North American car market that they have continued to expand. Ironically, thirty years later the very same inability to shift product offerings during a spike in oil prices precipitated GM’s current difficulties.

GM’s reluctance to go green is often cited by its new government owners as the reason it’s in so much trouble now, but the crux of GM’s problems really go back to those heady days of market domination and financial profligacy.

In the 1960s GM’s annual operating margin (profits divided by revenues) averaged 8.7%. The turmoil of the seventies and the pressure from Japanese competition drove those average margins down to 5.5%. Margins fell by about half to an average of 3% in the 1980s, and about half again to 1.3% in the 1990s (not counting the $20 billion hit GM took when the new accounting rules for OPEB took effect.) Finally, in this decade the slide has actually taken the company into an average of negative margins. Now only the government’s suggested radical restructuring seems to offer a way to stop the bleeding.

It is estimated that the cost of OPEB, essentially GM’s retiree pension and health care programs, have cost the company about $7 billion each year since 1993 and are probably around $10 billion per year now. The bargain auto company management made back in the 60s with labor to provide generous off the balance sheet benefits has now become an albatross that threatens the manufacturing jobs for the Big Three’s own current workers and suppliers across the Midwest. It’s the kind of problem only government can solve.

But the Obama Administration’s early efforts to do so have been far from promising. First it selected Steve Rattner as its “car czar”, a politically well-connected private equity investor and turnaround artist from “that New York town,” someone with no significant automobile industry experience. In addition, the government's demands that GM dismantle more brands and shut down more dealerships suggests the process may get a lot uglier by the May 31 decision deadline.

Luckily the United Auto Workers remain on watch to try to ensure that whatever concessions are demanded of GM’s current and retired employees reflect an equitable shared sacrifice with the company’s bondholders and investors. The kind of GM that emerges from these negotiations will have a huge impact on these workers and on the many industrial towns that depend on the car business for their basic existence.

Ultimately, the decision on how best to “rescue” GM may turn out to be the most difficult call President Obama will make in his first year in office. He will be pulled by pressures from the green gentry left to force GM’s future products to conform to a pre-determined environmental agenda. He also will face predictable Republican calls to let the market work its will, even if it means the end of the company.

President Obama will need the wisdom of Solomon to recognize that today’s workers no more deserve to be punished for the mistakes of prior management than CIA agents do for carrying out the orders of their equally arrogant Republican counselors during George W. Bush's administration. To paraphrase the President’s words, it’s “time to move on” and offer GM the support it needs to “Catch a Wave” and start producing more “Good Vibrations” for America’s hard pressed, but still very critical manufacturing sector.

Cross-posted at New Geography.

Important Notice

A ban on all cross boirder communications has been agreed to and declared by the National Board of the CPUSA.

This ban prohibits discussions with anyone seeking to promote Twentieth Century Socialism.

Stiff penalties will be imposed for anyone violating this ban on cross border communications.

Sam Webb
National Chair, CPUSA

Eleven talking points on 21st century socialism

Author: Carl Davidson
People's Weekly World Newspaper, 05/01/09 19:08

The current discussion around socialism in left and progressive circles in the U.S. needs to be placed in a more substantive arena. This is an effort to do so. I take note in advance of the criticism that the following eleven working hypotheses are rather dry and formal. But in light of the faux ‘socialisms’ bandied about in the headlines and sound bytes of the mass media in the wake of the financial crisis, especially the absurd claim in the media of rightwing populism that the Obama administration is Marxist and socialist, I felt something a little more rigorous might be helpful. Obviously, criticism and commentary is invited.

1. Socialism’s fundamental building blocks are already present in US society. The means of production, for the most part, are fully developed and in fact are stagnating under the political domination of finance capital. The US labor force, again for the most part, is highly skilled at all levels of production, management, marketing, and finance. The kernels of socialist organization are also scattered across the landscape in cooperatives, socially organized human services, and centralized and widespread mass means of many-to-many communication and supply/demand data management. Many earlier attempts at socialism did not have these advantages.

2. Socialism is first of all a democratic political system where the interests and organizations of the working class and its allies have attained and hold the preponderance of political power and thus play the critical leading role in society. It is still a class society, but one in a protracted transition, over hundreds of years, to a future classless society where exploiting class privileges are abolished and classes and class distinctions generally wither away, both nationally and globally. So socialism will have classes for some time, including some capitalists, because it will be a mixed economy, with both public and private ownership, even as the balance shifts over time. Family farmers and small proprietors will both exist and flourish alongside cooperatives. Innovative 'high road' entrepreneurial privately-held firms will compete with publically-own firms, and encouraged to create new wealth within an environmentally regulated and progressively taxed system. Past efforts to build socialism have suffered from aggravated conflict between and among popular classes and lack of emphasis on building wide unity among the people.

3. Socialism at the base is a transitional economic system anchored in the social mode of production brought into being by capitalist development over several centuries. Its economic system is necessarily mixed, and makes use of markets, especially in goods and services, which are regulated, especially regarding the environment. But capital markets and wage-labor markets can be sharply restricted and even abolished in due time. Markets are a function of scarcity, and all economies of any scale in a time of scarcity have them, even if they are disguised as 'black' or 'tiered' markets. In addition to regulated markets, socialism will also feature planning, especially on the macro level of infrastructure development, in investment of public assets and funds, and other arenas where markets have failed. Planning will especially be required to face the challenges of uneven development and harsh inequalities on a global scale, as well as the challenge of moving from a carbon and uranium based energy system to one based on renewable green energy sources. The socialisms of the last century fell or stagnated due to failure to develop the proper interplay between plans and markets.

4. Socialism will be anchored in public and worker ownership of the main productive forces and natural resources. This can be achieved by various means: a) buying out major failing corporations at penny stock status, then leasing them back to the unions and having the workers in each firm—one worker, one vote—run them, b) workers directly taking ownership and control over failed and abandoned factories, c) eminent domain seizures of resources and factories, with compensation, otherwise required for the public good, and d) public funding for startups of worker-owned cooperative businesses. Socialism will also require public ownership of most finance capital institutions, including bringing the Federal Reserve under the Treasury Department and federal ownership. Lease payments from publically owned firms will go into a public investment fund, which will in turn lend money to community and worker owned banks and credit unions. A stock market will still exist for remaining publically traded firms and investments abroad, but will be strictly controlled. A stock transfer tax will be implemented. Gambling in derivatives will be outlawed. Fair trade agreements with other countries will be on a bilateral basis for mutual benefit.

5. Socialism will require democracy in the workplace of public firms and encourage it in all places of work. Workers have the right to independent unions to protect their social and daily interests, in addition to their rights as worker-owners in the governance of their firms. In addition to direct democracy at the plant level, the organizations of the working class also participate in the wider public planning process and thus democratically shape the direction of ongoing development on the macro level as well. Under socialism the government will also serve as the employer-of-last-resort. Minimum living-wage jobs will be provided for all who want to work. Socialism is committed to genuine full employment. Every citizen will have a genuine right to work.

6. Socialism will largely be gained by the working class and it allies winning the battle for democracy in politics and civil society at large, especially taking down the structures and backward laws of class, gender and racial privilege. Women have equal rights with men, and minority nationalities have equal rights with the majority. It also defends equal rights and self-determination among all nations across the globe; no nation can itself be fully free when it oppresses another. Socialism will encourage public citizenship and mass participation at every level, with open information systems, public education and transparency in its procedures. It will need a true multiparty system, with fusion voting, proportional representation and instant runoff. Given the size and diversity of our country, it is highly unlikely that any single party could adequately represent all popular interests; working class and progressive organizations will need to form common fronts. All trends are guaranteed the right to speak, organize, petition and stand for election. With public financing as an option, socialism can restrict the role of wealth in elections, moving away from a system, in effect, of “one dollar, one vote” and toward a system more reflective of “one person, one vote.” These are the structural measures that can allow the majority of the people, especially the working class and its allies, to secure the political leadership of government and instruments of the state by democratic means, unless these are sabotaged by reaction. Some socialisms of the past used only limited formal democracy or simply used administrative means to implement goals, with the failure of both the goals and the overall projects. Americans are not likely to be interested in systems with elections where only one party runs and no one can lose.

7. Socialism will be a state power, specifically a democratic political order with a representative government. But the government and state components of the current order, corrupted with the thousand threads connecting it to old ruling class, will have to be broken up and replaced with new ones that are transparent, honest and serve the majority of the people. The US Constitution and Bill of Rights can still be the initial basic organizing principle for a socialist government and state. The democratic rights it has gained over the years will be protected and enhanced. Government will also be needed to organize and finance the social development benefitting the people and the environment already mentioned; but the state power behind the law will be required to compel the honest use of resources and to protect people from criminal elements, individual and organized. Forces who try to overturn and reverse the new socialist government illegally and in violation of the Constitution will not be able to do so; they will be broken up and brought to justice. Our society will need a state power for some time to come, even as its form changes. Still, government power has limits; under socialism sovereignty resides in the people themselves, and the powers of any government are necessarily restricted and subordinate to the universal and natural rights of all humankind. Attempts to ignore or reject these principles have severely harmed socialist governments and movements in the past.

8. Socialism will be a society in harmony with the natural environment, understanding that all economies are subsets of the eco-system and ignore it at their peril. In its economics, there are no such things as “externalities” to be pushed off downstream or to future generations. The nature of pending planetary disasters necessitates a high level of planning. We need to redesign communities, promote healthier foods, and rebuild sustainable agriculture—all on a global scale with high design, but on a human scale with mass participation of communities in diverse localities. Socialism will treasure and preserve the diversity of nature’s bounty and end the practice of genetic modification to control the human food supply. We need growth, but intelligent growth in quality and wider knowledge with a lighter environmental footprint. A socialism that simply reproduces the wasteful expansion of an earlier capitalism creates more problems than it solves.

9. Socialism values equality, and will be a society of far greater equality of opportunity, and far less economic inequality. In addition to equal rights before the law, all citizens and residents will have equitable access to a “universal toolbox” of paid-up free public education for all who want to learn, for as far as they want and are able to go; universal public pre-school care; a minimum income, as a social wage, for all who create value, whether in a workplace or otherwise; our notions of socially useful work, activity that creates value, has to be expanded beyond market definitions. Parents raising children, students learning skills, elders educating and passing traditions to younger generations--all these create value that society can in turn reward. Universal single-payer health care with retirement benefits at the level of a living wage is critical to start. Since everyone has access to employment, the existing welfare system can be abolished; individuals will be free to choose the career path and level of income targets they desire, or not. There are no handouts for those able to work, but there are also no irrational barriers to achievement.

10. Socialism is a society where religion can be freely practiced, or not, and no religion is given any special advantages over any other. Religious freedom remains a fundamental tenant of socialism, but naturally neither its practitioners nor anyone else can deny anyone the benefits and protection of civil and criminal law, especially to women and children.

11. Socialism will require an institution of armed forces. Their mission will be to defend the people and secure their interests against any enemies and help in times of natural disasters. It will not be their task to expand markets abroad and defend the property abroad of the exploiting classes. Soldiers will be allowed to organize and petition for the redress of grievances. Armed forces also include local police, under community control, as well as a greatly reduced prison system, based on the principle of restorative justice, and mainly for the protection of society from individuals inflicted with violent pathologies and criminal practices. Non-violent conflict resolution and community-based rehabilitation will be encouraged, but the need for some coercive means will remain for some time.

[Carl Davidson is webmaster for SolidarityEconomy.net, a national committee member of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, and a coordinating committee member of the US Solidarity Economy Network.

Friday, May 1, 2009



These two letters appeared on the PWW website.

What is going on?

Nancy Pelosi has made it very clear: There will be no single-payer.

I don't want to read about single-payer in the PWW again.

Joel was right not to mention single-payer.

The Minnesota Problem is rapidly spreading.

We must bring this problem under control before it becomes pandemic. The Minnesota Problem is deadly and pernicious proceeding with utmost stealth permeating every political discussion with single-payer universal health care as an incremental baby step towards socialized health care which would put us right back to 20th Century Socialism. I say: No way; no how!

The main way the Minnesota Problem manifests itself and infects the body politic is through advocacy of single-payer. We all know who is responsible for the MN DFL passing that damn single-payer resolution. I'm not going to mention any double four letter words. We all know the culprit.

We are finally beginning to understand the way the Minnesota Problem spreads. Communist Clubs, like healthy living cells, multiply and constantly replenish bringing a sick body back to a healthy state. Not that I am acknowledging there is anything unhealthy taking place in the center because I am not. We have protected ourselves with glass offices inside of brick walls. The enemy ideology carried by Minnesotans will not permeate our well fortified walls and glass offices built as a barrier to all outside influences and problems.

We must revert back to the most advanced 16th Century science on a temporary basis to halt the spread of the Minnesota Problem.

There will be no single-payer universal health care per our agreement with our coalition partner H-CAN.

My personal preference is the John Marty plan. Marty is an OK guy. When I write my book "Socialism in Increments" Minnesota State Senator John Marty will be quoted very liberally. I might even put his picture in a small box next to mine on the cover.

In closing, let me point out that on this May Day 2009 we should recognize that our friend, ally and all-round advocate for the people, President Barack Obama, has just completed the most successful and historic 100 Days of any presidency in the history of our great country solidly pushing, prodding and doing whatever political arm-twisting is required to implement a progressive agenda based upon the core principles of our Party. These three important words: Profits Before People.

Let me also point out that those Minnesotans will most likely nit-pick about the order of these three words: Profits Before People. This is the new 21st Century grammatically correct writing technique.

The old 20th Century grammar had it: People Before Profits.

Look it means the same thing either way you place the words.

The word "profit" still retains its meaning.

The word "people" still means the same thing.

The word "before" still means before as opposed to after.

As long as you place the word "before" between the words "profit" and "people" it means the same thing. In our new way of looking at the world we are only concerned with what individual words mean.

So, Barack Obama is advancing our new concept of "Profits Before People."

All power to profits AND people! Long live the power of Barack Obama! Return May Day to Law Day! Everyone to the Street; Wall Street!

Sam Webb
National Chair, CPUSA


The quote from Sen. Sherrod Brown that single payer “is not possible right now” should not be left with out a rebuttal (“Health care reform rally: Yes we can!” on pww.org). That’s the insurance companies’ line. Of course it’s possible, and “yes we can” have single-payer, if we struggle for it! And if the PWW hammers away with informative articles which bolster our efforts on this.

Thousands of dedicated folks, including myself, are out there struggling to get single-payer “on the table” where it belongs and then into law, which is what the majority of Americans want as recent polls indicate.

We are battling the insurance companies on this issue and to have articles pushing positively for HCAN works against us to say the least. HCAN is a wedge movement formulated with the insurance companies and the leadership of some unions (not the membership) to keep the insurance company culprits in the mix, doing what they have been doing which is keeping 45 million without health care, killing over 20,000 every year, denying coverage to make their billions.

Doing health care reform “half-assed” with a “public option” keeping the culprits in the mix is doomed to failure and should be fought from the get-go.

Michael Scheinberg

Via e-mail

Obama and Congress are headed for disaster in the health care bill this summer. The goal of an affordable, workable plan for universal care is known, but nobody is talking about it. Joel Wendland in the Peoples’ Health column (4/25-5/1) does not mention the single-payer public plan in the two options being debated now in Congress, i.e. private insurance and a “public option.”

Single-payer is not an option unless all others are excluded. Single-payer health care is working all over the world but apparently is anathema in the U.S., where Congress debates timeworn failures like private health insurance and partial public programs.

Private health care insurance is hopelessly reactionary and unworkable due to cherry-picking of the healthy population, cost ballooning on administration and profits, and inadequate medical delivery. The public programs which we now have (along with private competition) are too expensive, incomplete and do not lead toward single-payer.

Public programs have been tried in Massachusetts, Washington and Oregon and have not worked when competing with private lobbyists. Experts in Physicians for a National Health Plan state that 59 percent of doctors and 62 percent of the public favor single-payer national health insurance (see Conyers bill HR 676, “Medicare for All.”) We must insist on it.

Walter Kearns, MD

Canoga Park CA