NEW YORK - Eighty leaders of the Communist Party, USA, opened a full session of their recently elected National Committee this morning in a celebratory mood.
The leaders, many of them activists in the labor movement and groups allied to it, were more upbeat than they have been at any time since tea party Republicans made major gains across the country in the off-year 2010 elections.
Before the session, they talked with one another about what they see as an almost incredible string of victories for the "people's movements" recently - the rejection by voters last week of a draconian anti-labor law in Ohio, the defeat the same day of a "life starts at conception" amendment to the Mississippi state constitution and the voter recall recently of GOP state senators in Wisconsin who voted to kill collective bargaining rights there.
What excited them most, however, is the recent sprouting of Occupy Wall Street movements in hundreds of towns and cities from one end of the country to the other.
The National Committee meeting itself is taking place at the CPUSA's national headquarters in the Chelsea section of this city, only a mile or so from the site of the original Occupy Wall Street encampment in the heart of the financial district.
As is its practice, the party opened its National Committee meeting with an analysis of the current state of affairs in America.
"This is a volatile period in our history," declared Sam Webb, the party's national chairperson. "We are in the midst of an upsurge in both the class and the democratic struggles." He said the Ohio vote was both a victory for workers and a victory for the rights of everyone in the state.
Webb credited Occupy Wall Street with changing the political environment, with "shining the spotlight on the crimes of Wall Street" rather than on the demands of right wingers calling for budget cuts and for "starving of government programs."
He said the Occupy Wall Street movement did not "spring from nowhere, but is part of a stream of activity that includes the international struggles for democracy and against bank-imposed austerity, the earlier struggles this year in Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio and, even earlier, the broad coalition that had come together to elect Barack Obama to the presidency in 2008."
Webb warned, however, that despite the gains made by the progressive movements recently, "right-wing extremism remains the main obstacle to progress in this country." He said Obama's election in 2008 was a "blow to the right wing but it was not at all a decisive blow."
"Because of this," he said, "The 2012 elections are critically important. The right wing aims to control all the branches of government. If they achieve their aim, the terrain of struggle for all progressive forces will be much more limited and much more difficult."
Webb said that the coalition that has to be built for these elections must be "bigger and even broader than the one we had in 2008." He said it has to include, essentially, everyone from the CPUSA to Harry Reid, Democratic Majority Leader in the Senate. "There are big differences between the huge numbers of groups that are involved, he said, but the thing that unites all of them is the need to defeat the ultra-right.
"The 2012 elections are not about settling for the lesser evil," he said. "They're about the struggle over the basic direction of our country."