New York District is growing: A report

BY:Chris Butters| July 2, 2021
New York District is growing: A report


The following report from the New York District was delivered at the meeting of the CPUSA National Board, March 2021.

I want to do in this report three things: 1) briefly go over the information contained in the report from our District that you recently received with regard to fundraising goals and club activities; 2) highlight the exciting developments in the growth in membership, especially regarding the Committee to Found the YCL, and the rebuilding of upstate clubs; and 3) discuss some of the challenges facing the clubs, whether upstate or downstate, in this new period.

First, I want to particularly highlight the reports of the Albany, Syracuse, Buffalo, and Rochester clubs.

A core of young comrades have played an important role in building a club in Albany last year on a solid basis. At their founding club conference last summer, held at a state park, they developed a collective plan of action, after a group study of the Party literature on building the clubs, with an emphasis on working collectively, as opposed to individual activists doing individual projects.

Albany Club leaders and members have also played an important role in helping to get the Syracuse club off the ground. A leader there is a trade unionist who had just initiated a successful drive to organize his workplace. Rochester is led by housing activists deeply involved in the #cancel the rent movement.


Statewide organization

With the reestablishment of the Long Island club, and efforts underway with regard to the Buffalo club, we are becoming once again a statewide organization, after years of being primarily centered in NYC.

This has driven the exec to make changes in our functioning, including tighter agendas and opening the meetings to upstate chairs and YCL coordinators. We have also established a District organization collective, both to better accomplish statewide tasks and improve communication between the NY exec and the clubs.

The other thing I want to underscore is, in a district that right now has a shortage of active trade unionists (and which hampered us late last year in making a breakthrough regarding unemployed council organizing in NY), the Albany and Syracuse clubs were galvanized by labor activism.

This has led us to consider forming a statewide labor working group, possibly linked to some of our experienced labor activists in the NYC Educators Club and others.


Committee to Found the YCL

In the section of the report you have received under “NY District” (with the NY Times photograph of our Party and PW banners in the center of the BLM march), you get a picture of the 50% growth in club membership in the recent period.

I can’t stress enough the importance of the work of the Committee to Found the YCL, preparing for a refounding in the future, and what possibilities that opens for the Party as a whole: a new portal for sinking roots in the mass movement and building the Party.

Before Covid, the youth had already begun to play an important role in organizing a series of forums at the Party building on 23rd Street and increasing visibility in social media, demonstrations, and a regular class series on Marxism.

But during the pandemic the YCL spearheaded the Party’s involvement in the BLM protests. They were active in the marches every day, including initiating protests with other organizations, as well as conducting mutual aid for protestors just released from jail on Centre Street.

Their banners and signs were often at the head of the marches. In addition to opposing systemic racism, and calling for a defunding of the police, their signs were sometimes the only thing that linked the struggle in the streets to the need to defeat the fascistic Trump at the ballot box.

Additionally, they have won some support of NYCHA tenants at Fulton Houses through several months of consistent tabling with Party and YCL literature, as well as literature against the RAD program, a stealth privatization of sections of NYC’s public housing being promoted by the current administration.

If new upstate clubs have brought a new dimension and life to our State Committee, the YCL has brought new life to the seventh floor of our building, which is becoming once again a cool gathering place. The YCL has instituted a regular reading group on Marxism, mutual aid and prison abolition projects, and has a core of communist young people whose work represents the future of the Party.


The Party clubs 

Our Party clubs have also experienced a boom in membership, both in the NYC area and upstate, including in areas where there are not yet clubs.

We in the District New Members Committee called 150 of them earlier this year, most of them under 35, many of whom joined online and are in areas without clubs, to learn more about why they joined, their interests, and to make sure they were taking advantage of the resources the Party offers.

We found they are hungry for action on issues. wishing to learn about Marxist theory but also how to apply the theory to this strange country called America. We find a good number still do not regularly attend meetings where there are clubs, and those who are in non-club areas desire to meet other CP members in their area. At the same time, many express a desire to volunteer on specific campaigns and specific issues, whether there is a club in their area or not.

No doubt many have been attracted to us by our electronic town halls attended by hundreds and with nationally known speakers, our excellent webinars, and our history of struggle against racism. We are the party of W. E. B. Du Bois and Paul Robeson and Claudia Jones.

We have found over the last year, though, that many of these new online members challenge the very definition of what we have traditionally conceived as a member of the Party —  especially around the question of regularly attending club meetings.


Points of entry

On the one hand, we must show in our club meetings — by our agendas, our club concentrations, our educationals, and our discussions leading to common action —that the clubs are the building blocks of the Party. In addition to an orientation to the labor movement, club immersion in the struggles against racism and white supremacy, sexism, and male chauvinism are key if the nationally oppressed and women are to find the clubs a movement-organizing center.

On the other hand, this is why the District is exploring the possibility of statewide working groups under the leadership of the Party, with a focus on engaging new members on specific projects and issues — not in place of but in addition to building and working through the clubs.

We have already established a fledgling statewide housing collective, based on ongoing Party activism in Rochester, Manhattan, Albany, Brooklyn, and Syracuse. As mentioned, another proposal is a labor working group, with Albany and Syracuse, and the NY Educators Club, along with several new labor activists and staffers in NYC unions.


Five more points

1. As you can see, the NY District is growing. What is now holding us back is a shortage of comrades with the political understanding and willingness to take on the role of club leaders, who make it a major priority and undertake the hard work to build the club as a collective, not just a collection of individual activists. We need to focus not just on numbers but the tasks of consolidation, to take a cold hard look at what works and what doesn’t in the clubs, and also prioritize identifying and fostering the Party’s future leaders.

2. While the emphasis should still be on club building, there may need to be some organizational forms in districts around specific issues or projects under Party leadership — different from our commissions — to engage new members who are not coming to meetings. I mentioned labor and housing earlier.

An example nationally might be our recent experience with the Unemployed Committee, which became open to all members who were interested.

3. There is no substitute for Party initiatives on the issues, such as unemployment or racism or the privatization of public housing. But at the same time there is a need to educate and mobilize our new members about the necessary coalition work with broader forces if we are to implement the “100 Days of Struggle,” the January 2021 resolution of the National Committee. This may include groups like Indivisible, Poor People’s Campaign,, Women’s March coalition, Working Families Party, Our Revolution, Black Lives Matter, Make The Road, Vocal-NY, NY Communities For Change, Uprose, Cuba Si, and more.

Our Unemployment Council project showed we need to deepen our relationships with the Central Labor Councils and our work in the unions.

In the past (and I am sure in the future), we have also worked side-by-side with DSA on various issues, whether in the streets on even on some of their candidates’ campaigns at the local level.

4. We need to educate our new members on why we don’t endorse candidates in bourgeois elections, but how we nevertheless concretely work on the issues. As much as many of the NY non-profit organizations do good and important work, we don’t prioritize building these organizations per se, but building the struggles they — and we — are engaged in. The old question, in building the movement, is how and when do we build the Party?

5. People’s World is still one of the most valuable tools we have and continues to be neglected as an organizing resource in the NY District. Its articles are especially useful to hand out in coalitions and other situations, whether we are known there as CPUSA activists or not.

But it will be even more effective and useful when we have more articles in the PW about our own Party’s views and our own participation in the struggles — and not just journalistic coverage of events, however excellent that coverage is.

There is no substitute for coverage of what is going on with the class struggle in New York, and the NY District’s participation in it. In NY, we are proud of Cameron’s article on the Teamsters’ Hunts Point strike and the organizing of the Chipotle workers, Turner’s on the NYCHA Fulton Houses struggle against privatization of public housing, and Bernie’s programmatic article about the Covid epidemic and the capitalist crisis in We criticize ourselves in NY for not writing more.


In summary

We remain committed to clubs as building blocks of the party. Collectively, largely through the clubs, we have raised $8,400 of the $10,000 quota so far. I believe will get there soon.

I can’t stress enough how important the developments around the growth of the Committee to Found the YCL are, and the importance of the Party supporting this development. We need to refresh ourselves on the Leninist relationship between the Party and communist youth work, with the youth organization aligned with the Party, but organizing with a relative independence. The recently established Youth-Party Committee has begun meeting monthly, which should strengthen the relationship.

There is an issue of leadership in the District, given the necessary withdrawal of our State Chairman for health reasons. We deeply miss Jarvis’ leadership, political analysis, and unifying spirit. In his absence we have endeavored to be a collective leadership in the exec. But we still acutely feel the lack of one or two chairs or co-chairs who are ultimately responsible for work between execs. Many of these issues we will be considering at our next State Committee meeting on March 20.

Image: NY CPUSA.


    Chris Butters is an activist for peace and justice in Brooklyn, NY.

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