News, commentary and analysis by leaders of the Communist Party USA in New York State. We discuss State politics and issues in New York City, covering developments in labor, civil rights education, housing and more.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

What the NY Communist Party says now

Friends and comrades,

The report below was delivered to the New York State Communist Party's 29th Convention, which took place today. Its general direction was adopted. Edits for style, grammar and typographical errors need to be made, but we present the report to you here, in a rough, unedited version, so that you may see our general politics as soon as possible.

Report to the 29th Convention of the NY State Communist Party

Welcome, everyone.

This report will not go into too much detail on some of the most important issues—but for good reason. You’ll be hearing a number of extended remarks in the discussion—on labor and the jobs struggle, on housing, education, peace, on the fight against racism.

Co-equal to all this is the job of building the Communist Party. We see this task as so important that we’ve devoted a portion of the Convention to it, a more interactive portion. We’ve asked Danny Rubin, who’s studied Marxism, or Marxism-Leninism, whichever term you want to use for it, and has put decades into the study of the theory of the role of Party, to give a presentation on building the Party, the YCL and our press. Then the Convention will divide into workshops where people can throw out ideas and come to a greater and better understanding of how we can work to build the Party. These will be working meetings; the ideas developed, the best of them, will be put into practice. It’s up to everyone here to make sure that the Communist Party is stronger and better in New York.

Some points on the overall scene:

We’re in a period coming on the heels of a huge victory, the successful culmination in the fight for health care reform. I want to emphasize that I’m using the word “successful” without reservation or hesitation. I won’t go too much into the specifics; there’s a good PW article on that. But it does limit the profits of insurance companies. In less than a decade, more than 30 million new people will be insured.

That means tens of thousands of people each year will live longer, lives saved. What kind of progressive, not to mention Communist, could pooh-pooh this? Fighting against this bill, as some had urged, out of a dogmatic fidelity to the idea of single payer-or-nothing would have sentenced these people to death. We can’t be part of any such thing.

Reform, for the first time in decades, put Congress and the President on record as saying, “Yes, it is the job of the government to protect people and deliver them services.”

It’s not worth it to spend too much time arguing against reform’s left detractors; there is a much larger group of people against reform, attacking it from the right. In fact, the same dynamic can be seen on virtually all issues. We’ve seen two poles emerge in U.S. politics. On the one side, there is the progressive, democratic people’s movement. It includes the labor movement and the racially and nationally oppressed, young people and the women’s movement, the Obama administration as well as the GLBT community and others, including everyone from the peace movement to sections of the Democratic Party and even a section of monopoly capital itself. It goes without saying that, around this pole, going out in concentric circles of support, is the working class. But on the other side there is a scary, fascistic pole. It is the side that is dominated by the extreme sections of monopoly capital, the tea partiers, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, and the Republican Party. This is the side of racist terror, the side that hates immigrants, that wants to escalate wars and terror around the world, and that is chasing immigrants out of the country.

We said that the working class is around the democratic pole, in concentric circles. Each circle that is closer to the center is more advanced. The same is true of the tea parties’ side, though with far less workers. It has to be said that there is some working class support there. But polls show that the tea party movement is mainly made up of middle strata people. The concentric circles on this side stretch out and meet and overlap with the circles from the other side. There are a huge number of working-class people somewhere in the middle who have contradictory ideas: big government is bad, but we should do something about health care; we’re union members and hate the bosses but why do we let in all these immigrants? Etc.

What to do about this? Obviously, we want to fight to get the best, most progressive, positions forward in our coalition. In practice, this means fighting for the dominance of labor and the other core forces, to set the stage at some point more than the monopoly forces, or the Democratic Party centrist forces in this coalition. At the same time, this can’t come at the expense of pushing that pole away from the working class people in the center. More people who are in the center have to be brought over to the side of the labor-led people’s coalition, that left pole, and we can do that.

We’re in a transitional period between a fight against the ultra right, just that most awful section of monopoly capital, and a period of an all out fight against monopoly capital. Currently, monopoly capital is sometimes an ally, sometimes not, based on any given issue. Even its most moderate section floats between the two poles. The question, then, is: how do we fully defeat the extremist ultra-right section of capital, and bring much of mass base over to the side of progress? How do we move to a new situation of working people and their allies versus all of monopoly capital? The answer given, and the answer with which I believe we would agree, is to fight to push forward the leading role of labor and its allies in the progressive camp and to, without yet pushing them away, marginalize the monopoly capital forces. That means helping to build the power of the AFL-CIO and the NAACP and NOW, NCLR and other Latino organizations, and the youth and student organizations, etc. At the same time, the alliance has to be maintained (even though this section of monopoly capital either doesn’t realize or openly resents being in alliance with such people’s forces), and strengthened, to ensure that the far right doesn’t pick up seats and power in the November elections.

The main issue going forward is going to be the question of jobs; we’ve already seen that this is the case. The biggest thing on the minds of the American people is the economy, and how it affects us. Can we win government intervention that will help to alleviate people’s economic suffering? If so, we can actually strengthen our coalition’s hand in November; if not, we can expect to see a setback, a defeat at the polls that would strengthen the hand of reaction.

I’m restraining myself from getting into the jobs’ fight; we have extended comments on that.

The stakes are high, and this election has to be seen as just as important as 2008. Will we move forward into an era of reforms, or will our efforts be stymied?

Concretely this means picking up Democratic seats in the House and Senate, with the best possible candidates. Here in New York, that means making sure that the NY senator maintains her seat. She represents what we can do in New York State right now, the balance of forces, and she has the backing of the key players, including labor and women’s organizations. As in all things, this isn’t about personalities, individual candidates, but about the victory or failure of the coalition/movement around them. We want to see a victory of this labor-led coalition around her.

We’ll also have to take a look at the House, and compare notes with our allies in labor and the broader movement: There are Democratic seats around the state that face challenges and need to be defended.

Also, there is the question of the governor: How do we make sure that some Republican doesn’t take the governor’s mansion? Or that the State Senate stays Democratic, or picks up some seats to make sure that no right wing coup d’etat can happen again. This will be State Senate that will be in power for the redistricting based on the census results, and the Democrats need to be in power to avoid Republican gerrymandering. These are going to be important parts of the elections, and, given that we are a small party, we have to decide what to prioritize, based on the actual situation as it develops.

We should talk about these elections here, and ask the incoming State Committee to make concrete decisions about what to do, and where.

We talked about the coalition necessary to win, and we saw the New York City version of such a coalition, very beautifully and fully on display, in the election campaign of John Liu. He had powerful opponents: he was one of four candidates vying for the seat, and Wall Street and the big developers supported anyone but Liu, and they had billions of dollars to spend. But he was able to win 40 percent of the vote in a four way race, and then, in the runoff, crush his opponent with more than 60 percent of the vote.

Why was Liu able to do this? The coalition: With the exception of a single union, Liu had the support of the entire city labor movement. He had the support of the African American community, the Latino communities, the Asian communities, the GLBT community, and many white liberals. This powerful, undivided coalition was able to crush the Wall Street candidates. We saw the same thing in the mayoral fight—almost. The coalition nearly came together around Bill Thompson, who was trying to defeat Mayor Bloomberg, who doesn’t just take the side of the bosses, but who is one of the bosses. Bloomberg, who you’ll hear much more about in the sub reports (if I were to really get into him, and how awful he’s been, I’d speak for twice as long!) He spent more money than any other candidate in the history of municipal elections, in any country, about $200 million, and had years of incumbency. Nonetheless, he was only able to beat Thompson by less than five points. And the coalition around Thompson included a divided labor movement. Of the biggest unions in the city, the most powerful, two or three sat out the elections or endorsed Bloomberg—out of fear of what he’d do to them if he won. If a single one of these unions had jumped in and mobilized, we would probably be in a city whose chief executive was Bill Thompson.

This coalition is the only way forward. In everything we do, every election, every fight on an issue, we have to keep in our thoughts the question of how we help this coalition come together and stay united, and how to further empower it. That is the way forward in every instance.

We should take pride that we were able to predict a number of things. We were saying “tax the rich” to fix the budget crisis all along. Now, we saw that the Working Families Party took up that idea, and pushed to tax up to 50 percent of Wall Street bonuses, and Paterson and Bloomberg are backpedaling, since they’ve likely been scared by the popular support for that demand.

We were, aside from Bill Thompson, perhaps the only people in New York City who actually thought that there was a chance for Bloomberg to be defeated, if the correct balance of forces were assembled. We were proven correct. The fact that we’re too small and weren’t able to put forward the case to enough of the key players in the movement hindered the city. If others had been persuaded to follow our line, the city would not have a fat cat billionaire mayor, the mayor who wants to take away kids educations, privatize the schools, etc. After the elections, we said that the time was right for some kind of progressive caucus in the City Council, already close to half the members of the council itself. No one said that, except us. We put the idea forward in the public forum. Did they take the idea and run with it? We don’t know, but we did accurately assess the situation. We can take this as proof that we’re on the right track, in touch with what’s going on, and, more importantly, that the Marxist outlook, the Communist outlook, is correct and works.

Turning to the Party organization, I’ve already mentioned our politics, our Marxist analysis, and how all that led us to the right conclusions. Our analysis has proven sound.

Within the past year, we’ve replaced an outdated New York City club structure with something new and better. What we had in place before was the relic of a different era. We had neighborhood clubs that had too few people for there to be any critical mass, an arts club that, while full of good people, couldn’t have any direction because it was multi-borough and most of the people who were artists—some historical figures in the Party—had passed. When we studied the situation, we saw that we needed to take a step back and regroup in order to move forward. We dissolved all these clubs and created a new Manhattan-wide club, chaired by Bill Davis, and assigned the members of all of the former neighborhood clubs, as well as people in Manhattan who had been clubless, into the new club. The AEM club’s members were sent into other clubs, where they can participate in local struggles. Manhattan held a club pride event, and it was pretty exciting. Meeting attendance is good, and they are connected to their communities. If it keeps going in this direction, we won’t have to wait that long to see new community clubs emerge out of it, clubs that will have strong roots in Harlem, in Washington Heights, in Inwood—just to name some places uptown.

We’ve established a Queens club, and Gabe Falsetta is helping to get it off the ground. It is small, but the first club in Queens in years. We’ve established an education workers club, out of the old, structurally non-workable trade unionists club. Mike and Bobby are leading that club’s work. We’re also on the verge of establishing a new Staten Island club; Gabe and I just met with the people who will become the founders of that club, by phone. Arts committee; TU committee

We’ve done other good things as well, but let’s look at some problems. Now, we only have a single person on staff, instead of the two people a few years ago, and three people before that. This is a result of objective conditions—the Party budget. The Party is, for the first time in decades, stable in its finances, and poised to do better (there will be a pre-Convention document on that), but that meant cutbacks in staff.

We have too small of a base of readers of the PW, something Danny is planning to address, and too few members, also something Danny is planning to address.

Because of all this, we haven’t been able to participate and influence the people we want to influence. We haven’t had nearly enough participation in the mass arenas of struggle, in the coalitions: Organizing for America, the labor movement, etc. We haven’t been able to have sufficient presence at big rallies, to either have Party contingents or hand out material.

We need better financial support. We’ve got only 26 sustainers in the district! How can this be? You all have a sustainer form in your folders. Can you either start a sustainer—taken out of your account each month automatically—or raise it?

I want everyone here to think about how you can help in this respect. The Party isn’t some amorphous, phantasmagorical organism that exists outside of our membership; it is its membership. We are the Party, and we all have to think of what we can do better.

I wanted to list all of these problems so that we could think about them, how to fix them. I’m not trying to be depressing or gloomy; there would be no point in listing these problems if they were not things we could overcome—and I think we will do so. As I said, we’ve increased our standing. We have politicians coming to us now looking for help in their campaigns, giving us openings in grassroots struggles and, more than five years ago, we’re known as a positive force in many arenas.

We have a lot of reasons to be optimistic; let’s work to ensure that the Party grows stronger—we’re finally moving forward past the anti-ultra right stage of struggle, but we’ve still got a long way to go between now and the construction of socialism!

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