The Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS) were established in 1992, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when approximately one third of the Communist Party USA‘s members—disenchanted with their organization in the sudden absence of Soviet funding and guidance—broke away to form a new group. CCDS explains that it derived its name from the Committees of Correspondence that in the 1770s “were formed in all 13 colonies and became the catalyst for united action against British oppression.” Among Marxist groups in America today, CCDS ranks third in terms of its size and influence—behind only the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and CPUSA. According to former congressional investigator Herbert Romerstein, CCDS maintains “a close working relationship with the Stalinist remnants in the former East Germany, now called the Party of Democratic Socialism.”
In an effort to be a “catalyst for change” capable of inspiring “united action among all who feel the brunt of oppression in the U.S.,” CCDS describes its members as “activists in all the social movements of our country—[movements] of labor, civil rights, immigrant rights, women, peace, international solidarity, gay and lesbian rights, environment, youth and students, seniors, and religion.” Using “Marx’s analysis and method to understand economics and make political assessments,” the organization seeks to “help shape a clear-cut alternative to the destructive, mean-spirited corporate drive for profit above all else” that allegedly undergirds capitalism. In short, CCDS aims to craft “a socialism of the 21st century” that offers “constructive solutions” to the problems bred by capitalism—namely “poverty[,] unemployment, racism, sexism, [and inadequate] health, education, and housing.” The group’s long-term objective is to promote a social order where economic resources are “used for the benefit of the many rather than for the profit of the few,” and where “the means of producing wealth—the factories, the land, and the banks—are controlled by the people, through a broad democracy in political and cultural life.”
Toward these ends, CCDS employs a wide array of organizing activities, educational seminars, lobbying campaigns, strikes, protest demonstrations, acts of civil disobedience, and media events. While rejecting capitalism without equivocation, the organization is not tactically opposed to “building allies where we can among productive capitalists [who are] seeking an alliance with labor to create new jobs in new businesses for a green energy future.” Similarly, CCDS strives to maximize its own influence by forming “broad alliances of left and center forces, rather than just militant left blocs.”
Emphasing the deep “structural reforms” it seeks to bring to American society, CCDS is “not simply looking to redistribute wealth downward,” but rather “to take down the structures of class, race and gender privilege, and alter the relations of power.” The organization harbors “no illusions” about the fact that inevitably “we will need to move beyond … and replace” the “two main parties [Democratic and Republican] of capitalism,” but it is willing to pursue that goal in a gradualist manner via an “inside/outside” approach. This means “working inside the Democratic Party’s arena where it makes sense to do so, and with third party formations where it is possible and desirable.”
In 2008, CCDS supported the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama—working closely with the DSA on Obama’s behalf, particularly through the political advocacy group Progressives for Obama (now called Progressive America Rising). Exhorting leftists and liberals to inflict “a massive defeat” on Republican nominee John McCain and “his war-mongering, neo-conservative, right-wing sponsors,” CCDS called for “a massive turnout of new, young, African American, Latino, Asian American, trade union, and progressive voters” at the polls. Also during the campaign season, CCDS national co-chair Mark Solomon blamed racism for most of the “ferocious attacks” that were directed toward Obama and his minister, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
Viewing the United States and Israel as the chief wellsprings of human oppression worldwide, CCDS accuses the Jewish state of “horrific war crimes” including the “bombing of innocent Palestinian civilians”; charges that the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza—which was established to prevent Hamas from importing deadly weaponry—has unjustifiably “denied … food and medicine” to the residents of that region; and claims that the U.S. is complicit in this evil by virtue of having “contributed billions of dollars annually to Israel as well as military equipment and bombs.”
Maintaining that the greenhouse-gas emissions associated with human industrial activity in capitalist societies are largely responsible for the potentially catastrophic phenomenon of global warming, CCDS co-sponsored an October 12, 2009 event at the Institute for Policy Studies on the science and politics of climate change.
Favoring a single-payer healthcare system administered entirely by the federal government, CCDS in April 2010 lamented that the recently enacted “Obamacare” legislation fell somewhat short of fulfilling “the promise of affordable and equitable health care for all.”
To stimulate the American economy and create jobs, CCDS advocates “a massive, federally organized and publicly-funded restructuring of our social and physical infrastructure,” with particular emphasis on “the construction of new ‘green’ industries.” Specifically, the CCDS plan would feature “permanent [jobs] with an inflation-indexed minimum starting pay of $18 an hour”; “vigorous affirmative action to guarantee job opportunities” for nonwhites; the “legalization” of all illegal immigrants “who work”; the transferral of half of all U.S. military expenditures to “the jobs program”; and steep tax increases designed to force corporations and wealthy individuals to pay “their fair share.”
CCDS is a member organization of the United for Peace and Justice anti-war coalition. Noteworthy CCDS leaders include co-chair and field organizer Carl Davidson, national executive committee member Harry Targ, and advisory board members Noam Chomsky, Angela Davis, Ruby Dee, and Pete Seeger. Among CCDS’s former advisory board members and co-chairs were Herbert Aptheker, Leslie Cagan, Van Gosse, Manning Marable, Dessima Williams, union activists from the AFL-CIO and AFSCME, and numerous members of the CPUSA. Congresswoman Barbara Lee once served on CCDS’s national coordinating committee.
In addition to the individuals listed above, CCDS conferences have featured such guest speakers as Angela Davis, Judith LeBlanc, Tim Wise, and leaders affiliated with the American Friends Service Committee, the Black Commentator, the FMLN, the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, the Service Employees International Union, and the South African Communist Party. Other groups with close ideological ties to CCDS include the Green Party, the Peace and Freedom Party, and the Working Families Party.