SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, Gearing up for the elections

LOS ANGELES – “California must defeat Bush by an overwhelming majority,” said Jarvis Tyner, executive vice-chair of the Communist Party USA, “and we must say to the Terminator (Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger): Bush is now and you’re next!”

Tyner’s remarks evoked a roaring ovation at a conference on “Socialism, Democracy, and Defeating Bush in 2004,” held here April 18.

Speaking to a multiracial gathering of over 60 trade union, civil rights, peace, youth and senior activists from throughout Southern California, Tyner said, “The whole world is hoping we do the right thing and defeat Bush.” He reported that opposition to Bush’s policies was the most unifying theme of the over 100,000 participants at the World Social Forum held in Mumbai (Bombay), India, Jan. 16-21, where he delivered a speech titled “Prospects for socialism in the U.S., and the fight against the new imperialism.”

Noting that the CPUSA does not endorse candidates of other parties, Tyner said the Party recognizes there are real differences between right-wing Republican Bush and Sen. John Kerry, the presumptive presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, on issues of unilateral aggression, export of jobs, outreach to minorities, labor rights, choice, gay rights, environment, Social Security and funds for education and health services as opposed to space weapons.

Rosalio Muñoz, organizer for the Southern California district of the CPUSA, which sponsored the conference, stated, “It may be possible to trounce Bush in California and, if so, defeat right-wingers in Congress.” He added that ending right-wing control of both houses would create possibilities for real policy changes.

Muñoz said a majority of California’s voters supported Democrat Al Gore over George W. Bush in 2000, even with Ralph Nader on the ballot. He said in California’s recent primary, a Los Angeles Times exit poll indicated 52 percent of the voters were Democrats and only 34 percent Republicans. Independents made up 8 percent of the vote for Democratic primary candidates and only 3 percent voted for GOP primary candidates.

Muñoz called on the Communist Party membership and progressive activists to prioritize building for a mass anti-Bush turnout amongst workers, the working poor and unemployed, pointing out that the exit poll indicated only about one-third of the primary voters were from households with incomes under $60,000 a year.

Conference participants raised many issues, including the need to start voter registration efforts based on issues right away, educating voters on the dangers of U.S. foreign policy all over the globe, the right-wing threat to liberal Sen. Barbara Boxer, vigilance on vote count issues, and defense of immigrant rights.

Jessica Marshall, national coordinator of the Young Communist League, greeted the conference and said, “On virtually every front Bush is attacking youth and doesn’t show any signs of letting up. But neither will we! Young people all over the country are mobilizing and getting fired up to take back our future. The YCL will be there too ... helping build a stronger YCL and a stronger youth and student movement to kick Bush out of the White House in 2004!”

Greetings were also brought by Juan Lopez, chair of the Northern California district CPUSA, and Marilyn Bechtel, editorial board member of the People’s Weekly World.

Conference participants stressed that despite a setback in the October 2003 recall of Gov. Gray Davis and election of Schwarzenegger, strong labor and community support for the grocery strike, scores of continuing neighborhood peace vigils, the overwhelming rejection of a Wal-Mart store by a solid multiracial majority in Inglewood, and continuing successes of the labor movement in helping elect progressive candidates in state and local races, were a good basis for defeating Bush now and Schwarzenegger next.

In closing the discussion, Tyner noted how his candidacy for vice president on the CPUSA ticket with Gus Hall in 1972 and 1976 had helped build support for progressive change and a future socialist USA, but that “this was in a period when the dangers from the right were not so great. But now a right wing … fascist danger has to be our concern.”

“If Bush wins, he will be a lame duck but with no re-election concerns and he will give full force to his ugly and deadly policies,” Tyner said.