Commies vs. “Commies”

A typically excellent piece by Freddie DeBoer claims-almost entirely justifiably-that on issue after issue those who viewed the Democratic Party with extreme skepticism (bordering on cynicism) would find their positions repeatedly vindicated by the inevitable capitulations of a corporate party to its donor base. Freddie calls those who got it right “commies”, which is a reasonable enough designation, provided that it’s understood that it applies informally and not precisely.

To show that it doesn’t always apply, I’ll use myself as an example. All of the positions he attributes to “commies” are positions I am on record as having advocated for-including when I was a Green Party Alderman in New Haven.  But I am not, nor have I ever been, a “commie”. And a lot of us on the front lines of the reaction to neoliberalism were not-though we would hasten to add that we would defend to our deaths the rights of “commies” to participate in the political process and have found ourselves on the same side of the barricades with them many times.

Furthermore, he should also know that those for whom the designation most strictly applies, namely, the remaining members of the Communist Party, USA, have long since made their peace with the Democratic Party and have been for years enthusiastically campaigned for its candidates, virtually never challenging its agenda.

I myself had a front row seat to this when I served in New Haven. There were, in fact, “commies” in New Haven, i.e. members of the CP. And, rather than work against the local DP machine, they routinely cut deals with them to finance their (small scale, but not totally insignificant) operations and even salaries. Consequently, they were cut into the action and would reliably be brought to heel when the local bigs (e.g. Joseph Lieberman) pulled on their leash. I would prefer not to name names here, as those who participated in this sort of transactional politics were mostly decent people, by now quite advanced in age, if not, in some cases, deceased.  And, God knows, many of them have suffered enough for their political beliefs. But I can document this charge, if anyone wants to challenge it.

In short, so not all “commies” were commies, as Freddie’s piece suggests, though his basic point, of course, still stands.

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