Communist Party vice chairman speaks at MU

Friday, November 13, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 5:47 p.m. CST, Friday, November 13, 2009
Jarvis Tyner, executive vice chair of the Communist Party USA, discusses politics, workers rights and economic policies during his speech in MU's Ellis Auditorium on Thursday.

COLUMBIA — Jarvis Tyner, executive vice chairman of the Communist Party USA, spoke at MU on Thursday and said the election of President Barack Obama opens the door for the left wing, which he feels has allowed itself to be pushed to the sidelines and overcome with progress-impeding cynicism, to mobilize.

"He's only the beginning," Tyner said. "I think he's a transitional president. I think somebody else is going to come in and take it even further."

The Communist Party USA

* Founded in 1919 in Chicago

* The party's organization is based on democratic centralism, balancing participation and central leadership.

*Its basic units are called clubs, which range from a few to several dozen members. The party's goal is to base a club in every neighborhood, shop and industry.

* The party holds a national convention every four years to elect leadership and set basic policy. State organizations also hold their own conventions.

* 1984 was the last election in which the party ran a presidential candidate. Tyner was the party's vice presidential nominee in 1972 and 1976.  

* The party views America's capitalist economic structure as the main force oppressing the working class. It pushes for peaceful revolution to replace capitalism with a socialist society.

* The party supports peace, jobs, racial and gender equality, justice, workers rights and socialism. It is against racism, militarization, oppression and exploitation.

* All communists are socialists, but not all socialists are communists. Communists view socialism, a system where major institutions are socially owned, as the stepping stone between capitalism and communism, a condition where there is no need for government because all members of society are provided for and has not yet been realized in its complete form. Some socialists view communists as too radical.


— The Communist Party USA's Web site

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Tyner spoke to an audience of about 70 people at MU's Ellis Auditorium. He focused on the transitional phase he feels the United States is in because of Obama's election.

Although the president is neither a communist nor socialist, his administration marks the country's movement away from the right-wing governments that have been dominant in the U.S. since the Reagan administration, Tyner said.

He said that while the Democratic Party is not without blame, the Republican leadership has been the source of the nation's problems that include an increase in poverty, a ruined economy, the continuation of  global warming, impeded scientific research and the destruction of public schools by No Child Left Behind.

Tyner said he and his party are not completely satisfied with the work Obama has done since taking office, listing the need to withdraw troops more quickly from Iraq, for initiatives to end nuclear weapons and to re-establish trading relations with Cuba.

However, Tyner praised the public option in the recently passed House health care bill, saying Americans need to put massive pressure on the Senate to pass the legislation with the option intact. He also felt there should be public options for the auto and housing industries and for student loans.

A Communist Party USA member for more than 50 years, Tyner joined the party as a young worker in Philadelphia. He was the party's vice presidential nominee in1972 and 1976. Also a founding member of the Black Radical Congress, Tyner has fought for racial justice and workers' rights since the 1960s when he became active in the Civil Rights and Labor movements.

He said the next step for the Communist Party USA is to move more into the mainstream.

"We're not ready to run for president, but we are ready to run for City Council, school boards. And we're going to do that more," Tyner said.

MU senior Alaina Boyett, who attended the event, said she was already familiar with much of the material Tyner discussed because of a Marxism class she's enrolled in. She liked that he made a point to separate the Communist Party and ideals from what she felt they are associated with in the mass media.

"I thought he was fair in his criticism of Obama and the right-wing talking heads," Boyett said.

MU's Karl Marx Reading Group, which meets to discuss communist texts and how their arguments apply to political action today, organized the event because members were interested in hosting a speaker. Leadership in St. Louis suggested Tyner.

"I thought Jarvis would be a good spokesman for what we're all about because he's been fighting for social justice for so long and a party member for so long," said Jack Buthod, the group's president.

Buthod, who joined the group as a sophomore, said it has been around for a few years but wanted to bring a guest speaker in to draw attention and generate new membership. Although he identifies himself as a Marxist, he said not everyone in the group does.

"I'd say it's definitely a mix. There's multiple communists in the group, but there's also people more interested in talking about the ideas from different perspectives," he said.

A group of seven MU students set up a mock-gulag in Speakers Circle on Thursday evening as a reaction to the Tyner event, a demonstration referencing the Soviet labor camps used to imprison political dissenters as well as criminals.Gulags were at their most prominent during Joseph Stalin's reign. One protester dressed up as a Soviet guard and held three others captive in a white metal canopy surrounded by barbed wire. Others handed out flyers and spoke to passersby.

One protester held a cardboard sign that said, "This is the Communism Jarvis Tyner is promoting." 

The group hoped the demonstration's proximity to Ellis Auditorium would attract the attention of attendees of Tyner's speech and lead them to come ask questions, although they said they were protesting communism in general and not Tyner specifically.

MU senior Eric Hobbs, who played the role of guard dressed in a forest green button-down shirt and trousers and a Soviet-style hat with earflaps, decided to protest when he saw a flier for Tyner's speech on campus Monday.

"I thought communism's message was going to be spread, and I thought it would be good to spread the message communism isn't that good," Hobbs said, who believes the governing philosophy leads to government abuse of power and oppression.  

"The main goal of the protest is to most importantly remind people of the damage of communism, what can happen when the government has too much power," Hobbs said, giving the examples of the Soviet Union and Communist China.

MU sophomore Megan Roberts organized the mock-gulag, modeling the demonstration after one at Washington University in St. Louis, which students held Monday to commemorate the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Roberts, who was out of town Thursday night, said she anticipated that Tyner would either talk about the evils of capitalism or the glories of communism and wanted the protest to remind attendees, as well as Tyner himself, of the oppression and deaths caused by the philosophy.

"Communism is a very idealistic thing, and I think people lose sight of its evils and what it's done to humanity," Roberts said.

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Ray Shapiro November 13, 2009 | 1:08 a.m.

Communist Party vice chairman speaks at MU
Friday, November 13, 2009
Angela Davis speaks about civil, human rights at MU
Friday, April 10, 2009
School cancels speech from conservative activist
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Burnette saw a man stand up and heard him shout, "Allahu Akbar." The man then opened fire.
What's next MU?
Inviting Ahmadinejad over to Buck's for some Tiger Stripe Ice Cream?

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith November 13, 2009 | 6:43 a.m.

No doubt the Communist Party speaker will have an appreciative audience, since there are those among us who would need to turn their heads sharply to the right in order to view a visage of the late Karl Marx.

(Report Comment)
jack buthod November 13, 2009 | 11:39 a.m.

I'm with MU's Karl Marx Reading Group, who organized the event last night. I find it disappointing that the anti-communist demonstrators said they knew what Mr. Tyner's message was ("This [gulags] is the Communism Jarvis Tyner is promoting.") without bothering to actually come here his real message.

If they had come to the event, they would have heard a passionate fighter for social justice talk about the need for the government to respect people's basic rights of healthcare and other necessities. They might have heard his argument calling for the spread of US democracy to the workplace, which has an authoritarian structure under capitalism (does your boss routinely call for a vote on company policies?). They might have heard him criticize the authoritarianism of the Soviet Union and China. Unfortunately, the handful of anti-communist protesters was more interested in spreading sensationalist propaganda than engaging in constructive dialogue about our nation's future.

The American population has experienced decades of propaganda intended to paint Communism as inherently un-democratic. Marx, in his 'principles of
communism' and his 'critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right' endorsed universal suffrage and stated that 'the state ought to reflect the will of its subjects, rather than force its subjects to carry out its will.' The modern conservatives' claim that Marxist ideology necessarily leads to authoritarianism is as faulty as past British conservatives' fear that liberalism would always result in the bloodshed it caused during the French Revolution. The Commuinst Party, USA has no guillotines. We might knock on your door to encourage you to sign a petition though. The horror.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro November 13, 2009 | 12:49 p.m.

jack butold said:
"The Communist Party, USA has no guillotines. We might knock on your door to encourage you to sign a petition though."

I say:
Please respect the postings on my private property.
No trespassing!
Jehovah Witnesses, Kirby Vacuum Salesmen AND Communists: This means you.
*Beware of trained attack dog*
(Sick 'em, Rover.)
-Of course, Republicans, Conservatives and Libertarians are always welcome.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro November 13, 2009 | 1:43 p.m.

Hey, jack butod:
I need to apologize for my typo. I must have been thinking about the old one I use to sit on.
Nevertheless, since my college days in the early 70's, (when the SDS began recruiting on my campus), I have never met a Communist that I liked.
(Also, do me a favor and don't try to convince me that the Castro brothers are my friends.)
Finally, I'd like to direct critical analytical thinkers to consider the following:
("Andy Stern's socialist/communist views and goals for his SEIU members are a matter of record. Also his statements are almost insightful of the violent actions taken by SEIU members toward those of opposing views. With the long history of both Obama and Stern working together, it is no surprise they both remain silent in the wake of such violence and corruption. Expressed by their own words, Andy Stern and President Obama clearly share many points of view with health care, unionizing, and political legislation that would erode many free market and health care freedoms.")

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro November 13, 2009 | 1:54 p.m.

*jack buthod*
-Third time's a charm.
(One reason I prefer to copy and paste.)

(Report Comment)
David Ursery November 13, 2009 | 3:25 p.m.

All forms of Utopian socialism have expiration dates. You can only rob the productive spirit of your children for so long until they come and overthrow you. When will you silly simpletons realize that you cannot ever control the means of production? The means of production is an untamable force of nature, and you trade corporate oligarchs with very little power for a political class of oligarchs with immense power. There are no one size fits all solutions to mankind's problems. You cannot have liberty in socialism...

(Report Comment)
Lewis November 27, 2009 | 9:07 a.m.

Something socialists/communists always seem to forget is that the government creates no wealth of its own and sooner or later, you're going to run out of other people's money.

When the government pays for everything, there is no incentive for people to produce anything. When those who still produce are taxed to the point that they can no longer retain the product of their labor, they no longer have any incentive to produce. This creates a complete halt of all production. When this happens, first the government goes into massive debt to pay for all the socialist programs in place and they print money with nothing to back it (sound familiar?), which creates skyrocketing inflation, then the whole system collapses and the capitalists have to come in and clean up the mess.

Tyner - "Although the president is neither a communist nor socialist"
Yes, he is.

Buthod - "the government to respect people's basic rights of healthcare and other necessities."
Healthcare is not a basic right. Neither is home or auto ownership.

"the source of the nation's problems that include an increase in poverty, a ruined economy,... impeded scientific research and the destruction of public schools by No Child Left Behind"
All of which are the result of socialist policies.

"He's only the beginning," Tyner said. "I think he's a transitional president. I think somebody else is going to come in and take it even further."
No, Obama has served as a wake-up call to all true Americans who cherish liberty and will throw off the socialist's agenda.

Missouri politicians who have supported and voted for bailouts and other socialist programs inlude 8th district representative Jo Ann Emerson, and senator Claire McCaskill. Check the voting records of your elected officials and vote them out if they support socialism/communism.

(Report Comment)

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