The Worker

Speech from General Secretary Emeritus Angelo D’Angelo at Third Congress of Party of Communists USA

Comrade General Secretary Emeritus Angelo D’Angelo spoke at the Third Congress of the Party of Communists USA (PCUSA). Comrade Angelo is a founding member of the PCUSA, and he was the General Secretary of the Party for the first ten years of its existence.

The transcript of his speech is given below:

Pete Seeger’s father was in the Party, the Party that I was in for 42 years, the old Party which I still love. Your first love comrades, you don’t forget your first love. [laughter]

Apparently the current leadership [of the Communist Party USA] is not Communist; I have nothing to do with the current leadership.

But we own this place [Arrow Park, site of the Third Congress] through our organization the IWO – International Workers Order. You see the banners that they got from the IWO? That big red banner. The American Russian Organization of Workers section here got it from the IWO.

The IWO was very important during the Popular Front period. I’ll never forget Comrade Gus Hall – he said, you throw a pebble into the water in a lake. The pebble falls to the bottom of the lake, but the ripples keep going until they reach the middle of the lake. The Ripple Effect – Gus Hall told us that. And that’s what our mass organizations are – the IWO and all our mass organizations.

You all know that the history of this organization came out of US Friends of the Soviet People. Very important. We are working on the precious Soviet Films there, which we received through the work of comrade Dan. I met Dan at a Left Forum meeting from US Friends. He got us the Soviet films, which we have now going to our center in Vermont. You can’t get these films anymore. They’re all made in the Soviet Union.

The statues outside. They were given to Arrow Park by the Soviet government. Not the Russian government – the Soviet government.

Right now, the Communist world unfortunately is divided again. It is divided again as it was during the period of Mao Zedong and the Sino-Soviet split, which affected every Communist party in the world. It put us back. Two things happened right after each other – Khrushchev’s speech attacking Stalin, and right after that Maoism. They came hand in hand. One came from the right of the center, the other came from the left of the center. But the result was the same. It weakened us tremendously.

In the 1950s, the Capitalists tried to decapitate all of our organizations. They put Browder in prison. They put the leaders of the Communist Party, including Comrade Gus Hall and Comrade Henry Winston, in prison. The theory was that if you cut off the head of a snake, the snake dies. That’s what the FBI said, and that’s why they did that. They come after the leaders. Remember that.

But the leaders also can cause a problem. Don’t forget Gorbachev. Michael Lucas, one of my heroes in Canada who passed away, Northstar Compass Magazine. I met Joti’s [Brar] father in Canada – two or three meetings there. He did excellent books on perestroika, by the way.

You have to understand what that did to us. It’s called destroika, not perestroika. Destroika! [applause] Everybody was saying how great Gorbachev is. Reagan and Thatcher loved him, and so did the Communist leadership in many parties of the world. They thought this guy was the best thing since sliced bread. You young people don’t know what that means. [laughter]

They all thought this guy was great. I heard him speak at the UN in 1985. In 1985 Gorbachev came to the UN, and he talked about “universal human values”. That’s when I knew something was not right. The head of a Communist country, a worker’s state, talks about universal human values, what we all have in common. We have nothing in common, comrades, with the Capitalists. Zero. Your boss and you have nothing in common. Don’t ever forget that. So when this guy Gorbachev was saying that, I knew something was wrong. And that’s when I started to contact other people in the Party against Gorbachev. And I was sent down to 23rd Street [the headquarters of the Communist Party USA], put in a seat with a light in a ceiling. I felt like I was in the FBI, being interrogated. The leaders of the Communist Party were there – Jarvis Tyner, Esther Moroze. They said, “You cannot do this. You cannot go around and attack perestroika. We all agree with perestroika.” I said, “Well we never talked about it at a Congress. Nobody ever agreed with perestroika, comrades.” There was no Congress decision on it. It was all done by the leadership on their own outside of the Central Committee.

So be careful. How did someone like Gorbachev get to the top of the heap? Ask yourself that question. There had to be something wrong. Now, of course, he only got in by one vote. It was Kosygin. And where does Kosygin come from? He originally came from Nikita Khrushchev. By one vote, he [Gorbachev] got to be the General Secretary, and he destroyed everything.

He went to East Germany, the great German Democratic Republic. Many of us love the German Democratic Republic. The first time an anti-fascist German state on German soil. He went and he kissed Honecker at the 40th anniversary celebration. Gorbachev kissed him on both sides. Well, if you’re an Italian like I am, you know what that means. [laughter] When you get kissed on both sides of the cheek, it’s the kiss of death. That means the mafia is going to get you. [laughter]

And that’s what Gorbachev did. He sold Nicaragua down the road. He sold Ethiopia down the road. He sold out the Afghanistan socialist government. He sold the German Democratic Republic, every single country down the road. In fact, Comrade Fidel said there’s something wrong with this guy. Don’t trust Gorbachev. He’s a plant. And he [Castro] stopped all Soviet periodicals talking about perestroika from coming into Cuba. It’s interesting. So what Fidel saw, many of us others did not see.

I’ll end it with this. It’s easy to be a Communist for one day. “I’m a Communist!” You know. [laughter] It’s harder to be a Communist for a week. It’s harder still to be a Communist for a month. And those of us know what I’m talking about in our Party. It’s even harder to be a Communist for three months. Many people can’t do it. It’s just too much. So to be a Communist for 60 years, to me is miraculous. It’s so important. Bertolt Brecht, you know who he is, German communist put in a concentration camp by Adolf Hitler, he said very clearly: “To struggle for one day is good. To struggle for a week is better. Even a month. But to struggle your whole life for the Communist movement, that is indispensable.” That is indispensable. Those are the people. The Brar people is a perfect example of that in England. Those are the people that kept our red flag flying. So I just want to mention that everybody here, like my friend Dan from way back. He had hard times in the old CP, they gave him hard times. But he’s still here. Kamryn is here. Everyone here. When I first met Alex, I told him “You’re a diamond in the raw”. [applause] And anyone should be grateful to have you. And so I grabbed him right away. [laughter]

Just looking around – Jake. When I first met Jake, he had been living in Japan. He had been from a background of one parent was Jewish and one parent was not. So he was not brought up with any Jewish history or traditions the way I was brought up, an Italian. A “goy” as we say in Yiddish. A goy! I was brought up with this. Everybody in the Party where I grew up in New York was Jewish. I found maybe one or two Italians. Ernest DeMaio and Pete Cacchione were Italian. But everybody else – I was brought up with these Jewish traditions, foods, everything like that. So I came across this guy, and I said he needs to get back to his roots, and I’m glad to say he has gotten back to his roots. [applause] And he said that it’s great that I have found my roots as a Jew in the Communist movement. [applause]

I want to add to that. I found the Party because of my Christian background. That’s how I found the Party, and that’s why in Nicaragua there’s a connection between the religion and the government. Because what the Communists did during the Vietnam war, the old Jewish communists in the streets with the rain coming down, singing Yiddish songs against the war in Vietnam. They were in their 80s, and all the 80 year old Christians that I knew went to Church on Sunday, and I never heard from them again. Everything you heard from them was “Black this, Jew this.” Remember, I come from a background where Italian-Americans were anti-Jewish. They said that the Jews killed Christ. This is what I was brought up with. And remember the Pope during World War II was called the Fascist Pope. He had the bells ringing in Austria when they had the Anschluss and Austria joined Germany. He told the Catholic Church to ring the bells in joy. So that’s the background I had come across. And I see these people marching for peace, fighting against racism, and for labor unions. These are the real Christians.

I’ll end it with this. Thirteen years old, I read a book that changed my life. You’ll never believe the book. J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the FBI, [laughter] wrote a book called “Masters of Deceit” in which he said the Communists are in everything. They’re in the peace movement. They’re in your churches. They’re under every bed. [laughter] I said, wait a minute, you’re talking about people involved with peace and churches, working men, labor unions? How can these be bad people? They’re fighting for good causes, so they must be good people. That is the reason why I’m a Communist and I’ve been a Communist for 64 years, the best years of my life. [applause]

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