Communist Party generating interest in light of recall efforts

The Communist Party is coming to a city near you.

The Communist Party USA (CPUSA), one of the largest communist political parties in the United States, will hold two meetings on Dec. 17 in Madison and Milwaukee to educate and inform people interested in the Communist movement.

The Chicago CPUSA office organized these meetings because no official party office exists in Wisconsin, something that is in the works. These meetings have become a monthly occurrence in Wisconsin for the past six months due to increased interest in the Communist Party.

“We are more or less in the process of reestablishing the party in Madison and Milwaukee,” said John Bachtell, a national vice chairman of the party who organized the meetings. “We are experiencing a moderate growth all around the country and a lot of it is in response to the economic situation, the political situation with the anti-labor offensive of people like Governor Scott Walker.”

Wisconsin is irrevocably linked to the history of communism in the United States through 1935 Marquette law graduate and former Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy, whose warnings of a supposed Communist uprising propelled him to national fame in 1950.

In Bachtell’s mind, the debate over collective bargaining rights is the main reason interest in communism has risen in the last six months.

“The most important issue facing the people of Wisconsin and certainly the labor movement and our members is the recall of Governor Walker,” Bachtell said. “We were very much a part of the demonstrations in the spring and we’re wherever the labor movement is being attacked and wherever the rights of working people are under attack … we’re going to be defending the labor movement and defending people’s right to vote and fighting for jobs, all the kinds of things Governor Walker is attacking.”

Although no speaker is scheduled for the Madison meeting, Teresa Albano, a co-editor of the communist newspaper People’s World will be speaking in Milwaukee. Albano agreed that the collective bargaining debate attracts people to Communism.

“Certainly in Wisconsin I think that whole issue of collective bargaining rights and union rights and public workers and all of that has certainly gotten people involved and active in the political process,” she said. “People are beginning to more and more question ‘Is this the best we can do? Is capitalism the best we can do here?’…I think people are interested in what communists have to say about it.”

Albano will speak on the role of volunteer and left-wing media in society, hoping to educate and inspire people to participate more heavily in the communist movement.

“It’s always good to get together and exchange ideas, especially if there’s people who are like-minded and seeking an alternative way of running society,” she said.

Bachtell hopes the meetings provide “places where (Communists) can plan action.” He said it is important to beat Republicans in elections and “curb the power of Wall Street and corporations.”

Marquette College Republicans chairman Ethan Hollenberger said in a statement, “(The Communists) were very active in the spring’s protest and now believe in the recall (of Governor Scott Walker).”  The statement also called the Communists a “fringe organization.”

The Marquette College Democrats declined comment on the story.

The Milwaukee CPUSA meeting will take place in People’s Books Co-op, 2122 E. Locust St., at 6 p.m. on Dec. 17.

By Ben McCormick

Special to the Tribune