POSTPONED Tony Pecinovsky presents "Let Them Tremble: Biographical Interventions Marking 100 Years of the Communist Party, USA"
Pecinovsky's book contains six capsule biographies of American left-wing thinkers.
Arnold Johnson: A “consistent and vigorous” defender of the Bill of Rights and the Peace Offensive
- Throughout his political career, Johnson articulated a unique defense of the Bill of Rights, a defense intimately intertwined with African American Civil Rights, peace and free speech. His activities, like those of his comrades, can easily be characterized as part of a strategic Red-Black alliance, a decades long formal and informal collaboration that brought Black luminaries and activists into the CPUSA’s Red orbit. This chapter centers Johnson’s defense of the Bill of Rights as not only a fight for the legal rights of communists but also as a fight for Civil Rights and peace, as the Party (with Johnson as head of its Peace Commission) made considerable contributions to the 1960’s peace movement. The chronology is the late 1940’s into the 1970’s.
Charlene Mitchell: Presidential politics, the National Alliance and the fight against Reaganism
- Mitchell’s 1968 presidential election campaign, the Party’s own short-comings in initiating the campaign, the emergence of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, and Mitchell’s analysis of the various movements that emerged during the early Reagan Administration are discussed in this chapter. Significant attention is given to the political context of the late 1960’s, as the youth and student upsurge, Black Power movements and feminism all coalesced to impress upon the Party a unique opportunity to present Mitchell as potentially embodying a revived Communist Party, one reflective of emerging movements. Significant attention is also given to Mitchell’s work as head of the National Alliance and her assault in 1982. The chronology is the late 1960’s into the late 1980’s.
Gus Hall: The ‘Right to Speak,’ young communists and strategic relationships
- In the early 1960’s, Hall and the CPUSA embarked on an ambitious and deliberate campaign to rebuild their hounded and depleted ranks among youth and students. Far from being marginal, communists were an essential component of the youth and student upsurge and the free speech movements of the time, initiating new and important organizational formations. In all, it is estimated that communists, like Hall, collectively spoke with at least 100,000 students during the early 1960s, as tens of thousands organized on their university and college campuses for the right to hear Reds speak. Hall saw this fight for the right to hear communists led by students as a strategic relationship, an opportunity to rebuild and replenish the Party’s ranks though the Progressive Youth Organizing Committee, the W.E.B. DuBois Clubs and the Young Workers’ Liberation League, while shifting political discourse away from war in Vietnam. The continuing work of communists among youth and students into the 2000s after Hall’s death is also briefly discussed in this chapter. The chronology is the 1960’s through the 1980’s and into the early 2000’s.
Henry Winston: Sight, Vision and Black Liberation
- Winston’s imprisonment in 1956 is placed in political and historical context as communists led an international campaign eventuating in his release. As Organizational Secretary, Winston’s late 1940’s and early 1950’s analysis of the immediate impact of the emerging Red Scare on the Party and its membership provides a new perspective on the U.S. government’s early failure at isolating Reds. This chapter also looks at Winston’s analysis of the 1960’s Black Freedom movements and tactics employed by more adventurist elements. Highlighted are some of Winston’s criticisms of the Party in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s as he continued to articulate a “three pronged” approach to organizing well into his last years. Throughout his life, Winston argued for a robust approach to Party building, an approach centered on grassroots electoral work, industrial concentration and mass struggle. To him, a wedding of these tactics generated optimal results for Party growth and influence. The chronology is the early 1960’s into the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Judith LeBlanc: Indigenous Marxism, Changing America and United for Peace & Justice
- Le Blanc’s analysis of Native American oppression, from the Occupation of Wounded Knee, through the 1980’s and into the Standing Rock movement, is discussed in this chapter. To LeBlanc, the emphasis on Native American oppression was often connected to the struggle for workers’ rights to form and join unions and to protect the environment – a call decades ahead of its time. This chapter also focuses on LeBlanc’s role in the Party’s public access TV show, Changing America, a unique attempt by communists to reach into the then emerging demand for independent media. Throughout the early 2000s LeBlanc also helped lead United For Peace & Justice (UFPJ), a nation-wide coalition dedicated to building opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The chronology is the late 1970’s into the 1980’s, 1990’s and 2000’s.
W. Alphaeus Hunton: The National Negro Congress, the Council on African Affairs and Black Liberation