By Cameron Orr
A contingent of the New York District of the Communist Party USA tabled at the Buffalo event for the third year in a row to celebrate the important U.S. holiday. Juneteenth honors the abolition of slavery in Texas in 1865, the freeing of the last enslaved people in the crumbling Confederacy.
Continuing the struggle of working people towards a more perfect union, the New York State Communist Party encouraged more Buffalonians to join the fight for living wages and union rights with a pamphlet called “Why Buffalo Needs $15 and a Union.”
Filling the back wall of the Communists’ tent was a banner reading “Stop Trump’s New Jim Crow Fascist Danger.” Many festival goers were attracted to the call for a higher level of democratic struggle. One hundred people requested to maintain contact with the Communist Party USA and 34 chose to become members over the course of the entire weekend, including two hotel workers that had prepared their comrades’ sleeping quarters.
The defeat of slavery was wrought with a revolutionary struggle which has continued its determined march through the defeat of Jim Crow, the Civil Rights movement, and ongoing fights against voter suppression, on-the-job discrimination, cuts to public education and housing, displacement, police violence and mass incarceration, health and nutritional disparities, exploitation of immigrant labor, the use of unpaid labor, poverty drafts for imperialist wars and other forms of racist assaults which negatively affect all working people in the U.S..
Karl Marx attached great significance to revolutionary trends in the United States, from the fight for independence from British monarchy and colonialism, to the Civil War and the fight against racialized chattel slavery. “Labor in the white skin can never free itself as long as labor in the black skin is branded,” he famously wrote in Das Kapital.
Proto-communists like Thomas Paine had a large influence in the American Revolution, the radical Republican Charles Sumner worked to get the 13th and 14th amendments passed which helped break the power of the Confederacy, and Communists had a large role to play in the Civil Rights movement.
Communists continue to play an important role in efforts to unify labor and progressive movements in the fight against the ultra-right and in efforts to give working and oppressed people the leading voice in the struggle to unseat the most anti-democratic, anti-labor, racist, sexist, and pro-war multinational corporations from political power.
The presence of the Communists at Buffalo’s Juneteenth celebrations showed that radical struggle is an inseparable part of U.S. history, of which Dr. Martin Luther King himself was a part. Speaking at a tribute to Dr. W.E.B. Dubois on Feb. 23, 1968 during the Vietnam War, the civil rights, labor, and peace activist spoke to those assembled in Carnegie Hall:
“We cannot talk of Dr. DuBois without recognizing that he was a radical all of his life. Some people would like to ignore the fact that he was a Communist in his later years. It is worth noting that Abraham Lincoln warmly welcomed the support of Karl Marx during the Civil War and corresponded with him freely. … It is time to cease muting the fact that Dr. DuBois was a genius and chose to be a Communist. Our irrational, obsessive anti-communism has led us into too many quagmires to be retained as if it were a mode of scientific thinking.”