Out of hiding

Communists weigh in on the November election

On a recent Saturday evening, the local Communist Party held a meeting about the upcoming election not in a basement or secret room, but in a Mexican restaurant with big windows that let the setting sun shine in. The 10 attendees included several former and current party members, a Democrat-turned-Green, and a woman who had spent the day registering voters on behalf of Bexar County Democrats.

The diversity (albeit left-leaning) among the Communists' ranks and advocates speaks to the party's willingness - out of necessity or merely the attitudes of a new guard - to integrate itself into American politics.

"The party was hiding for a long time. But the party has been transforming itself into a more open group. We need to participate with others."

— Hernando Martinez
"The party was hiding for a long time," said member Hernando Martinez. "But the party has been transforming itself into a more open group. We need to participate with others. A lot of people are curious about us. You can get in anytime and leave anytime."

With the McCarthy-era witch hunts at least temporarily behind them, (the Bush administration has positioned Islam as the new bogeyman), Communists can openly build coalitions with the more mainstream left to accomplish its goals. This year, that goal is to unseat President George W. Bush, even if it means electing John Kerry, whose family, the pinnacle of capitalism, owns five houses, a Gulfstream jet, and a yacht.

The Communist Party is not running a presidential candidate, nor does the party officially endorse capitalists running for office. Yet, many within the party plan to vote for Kerry, who, while not ideal, represents a partial victory.

"Why is the Communist Party supporting a capitalist candidate?" member Roberto Botello asked rhetorically. "There is a diversity of views within the Communist Party; we're not supporting him `Kerry` really, but we have a different perspective of this election."

The Communist Party Platform

Provide free health care for everyone
Expand funding for HIV/AIDS programs
Provide reproductive rights and health care for women
Fully fund public education from pre-K through college
Increase federal spending for job programs for minorities
Increase aid and job creation in rural areas
Continue price supports and subsidies to family farmers
Raise minimum wage to living-wage standard
Expand Section 8 and other affordable housing measures
Do not privatize Social Security
Outlaw racial profiling
Abolish the death penalty
Institute alternative sentencing for non-violent crimes
End discrimination based on sexual orientation
Pull the U.S. troops out of Iraq
Stop development and testing of nuclear weapons
Repeal NAFTA
Develop renewable energy alternatives
Repeal Healthy Forests and Clear Skies Acts
Ratify Kyoto Treaty
Increase access education for immigrants
Repeal tax cuts for the rich
Restore tax rates on the wealthy and corporations to 1970 levels
Repeal the Patriot Act
Fund enforcement of the Voting Rights Act

Kerry, despite his wealth, is still more progressive than his wealthy opponent, Bush, whose joining of private corporations and government, party members say, portends the beginnings of fascism.

The Massachusetts senator's pro-labor, pro-choice stance is more aligned with the Communist Party platform. His views on health care loom closer to a single-payer system. With Kerry in power, the reasoning goes, the Party will be one step closer to reforming the social and political system - although there is still disagreement over how quickly those reforms should be established - incrementally or a quick revolution.

Former party member Frank Valdez, now a "maverick independent," is voting for Kerry since Dennis Kucinich did not receive the nomination. "The Left whines that there is no 100 percent pure candidate. We have a fascist in office. I'm not a fan of John Kerry, but I would rather see him in office. Bush will never vote progressive."

When the Supreme Court ruled Bush the winner in 2000, some members of the Left tried to comfort themselves with the prediction that Bush would devastate the country and allow Democrats to regain control. Yet, four years later, despite massive job losses, the largest budget deficit in history, and a failing war in Iraq, Kerry is still no shoe-in.

Party member Andy Sivak noted this scenario is reminiscent of the '30s, when the Communist Party would not unite with the Socialists to defeat Hitler. At the time, some of Hitler's opponents believed that if he won the election, conditions would disintegrate to the point where the Communists could defeat him and gain control. Obviously, history has proven otherwise.

"We're still better off if Democrats are in power than Republicans," Sivak said.

Green Party member Val Liveoak and former Communist Stefanie Collins said Texas progressives should not vote for Kerry. Since Bush will likely win Texas and its 34 electoral votes, "I don't see the point in adding to `Kerry's` popular vote," said Liveoak, an ex-Democratic precinct chairwoman. "The Democratic Party has not been good enough for a long time."

A Kucinich supporter, Communist Party member John Stanford plans to vote for Kerry and isn't discounting the chance the Democrat could win in Texas. "I haven't given up on Texas," he said. "We need to mobilize people to vote."

Yet, considering Kerry's support for NAFTA and the Patriot Act, Collins said voting for him is a step backwards.

"We're not realizing the full strength of ourselves," Collins said. "We need to take our rights back, not ask for them. Our dreams are not in their ballot boxes."


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