On democracy, CPUSA leader keynotes student convention

BY:Shelby Richardson, Jr.| November 15, 2010
On democracy, CPUSA leader keynotes student convention

On November 6, 2010, the Neuqua Valley Junior Statesmen of America Mini-Convention was held at the Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, Illinois. The theme of the convention was “Reforming the Democratic Foundation of America.” Over one hundred students from Naperville Central, Naperville North, Neuqua Valley, IMSA, and Arrowhead were expected. The auditorium where Aswin Sivaraman, student president, gave his welcoming was at near full capacity.

The convention was expertly organized. The format was that the issues of the day would be discussed in debates. There were 14 debates ranging from such topics as: should the U.S. federal government end capital punishment to, should Fox News no longer be considered a reputable news channel, but rather a source of social commentary. Judging from the debates I was fortunate enough to hear, the students were well informed and argued their positions well. It also suggest that young people are increasingly realizing that they have an important stake in understanding the issues we all face and in influencing there outcomes.

The keynote remarks to the convention were given by me on behalf of the Communist Party USA. Its focus was on the importance of protecting and expanding democracy. Observing these young students close up helped me to understand why they would invite a communist to address their convention. Simply, they are seeking truth and are open to different points of view. This convention was an educational in more ways than one.


Keynote remarks:

Good afternoon, I thank you for allowing me to share some of my views with you today. You are the future and your decisions will be important in determining what kind of world we will live in. I view it as a privilege and encouraging that young serious thinkers as you will take for consideration the remarks of a communist.

My party, the Communist Party USA was founded in Chicago in 1919. From that beginning until today it has experienced both periods of repression and times of increasing participation by communist in mass movements and as part of coalitions. We function in coalitions as equal partners, we are judged as others in the coalitions, by our commitment to the cause and our work to achieve the goal. We ask no more.

I would also like to take this opportunity to commend you. The categorization of yourselves as young statesmen suggest to me that along with your youthful exuberance for life, you are concerned that the world be a safe engaging place were scientific and technological advances continue and our growth as human beings is ongoing.

I think you are to be applauded for your willingness to honestly examine different perspective. You have the great gift of time on your side, although you will have to fight to ensure that the gift is not yanked from you by catastrophic horror through accident or war. You will not see eye to eye on the major issues of the day, but to be able to genuinely influence outcomes through the promoting of real democracy will most likely enable you to critically assess your perspective toward reaching the goal of a better world.

Your presence here today inspires hope for me, because I believe you think you can really make a difference. That attitude alone is invaluable. I hope your commitment is lifelong because it is needed.

I have made assumptions about you, now I will say a little about myself so you can form initial assumptions about me. I work in the criminal justice system as a probation officer. I lived my formative years on the south side of Chicago attending Harlan High School. I became interested in politics in the 1960’s which was a time of great social unrest, promise and change. Out of that experience I found my way to the Communist Party, which I felt embraced change based on equality for everyone.

Since joining the party I have never regretted it, it has broadened my perspective; I think I am a better person for it. In short I am a hard working person concerned about family, friends and country and about the world we all live in.

My profile is similar to many in the party, yet one of the most unfortunate occurrences for too many older members and their communities is that they felt compelled not to share their political perspective. I have attended funerals of some long term members with amazing records of social service and caring, where hardly anyone knew they were communist. They feared retribution if their views were known from their own government. You would think such an atmosphere could not exist today, but there is concern: on September 24th there were raids on the homes of 14 peace and solidarity activist carried out by the FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force. Personal belongings and files were confiscated from their homes. They had not been charged with any crime. Yet they have been subpoenaed to appear before a Grand Jury, for expressing their disagreement with government policy. Such harsh methods are designed to frighten people from speaking out publicly against what they see as being injustices. If they can speak to the perceived injustice they might convince you; this is what the powerful corporate, financial and military industrial complex consistently combat.

So what is it that the communist feel so deeply should be shared with you? We want you to know we strive to represent the multiracial and multinational U.S. working class. We want to unit men and women; young and old; organized and unorganized; gay and straight; native born and immigrant; urban and rural. We want African-Americans, Mexican Americans, Puerto Rican all other Latino Americans, Native Americans and all racial and nationally oppressed people to see the Party as welcoming and potentially a political home for them. We believe the living standards of workers and the natural environment are under constant attack due to the drive for maximum profits inherent in capitalism. Communist attempt to reverse this course, which can be achieved ultimately, we believe, with the winning of socialism by the people of this country.

Our vision of socialism is called Bill of Rights Socialism, based on our realities, our history and the finest democratic traditions. Our society would be reorganized where exploitation of human beings no longer exist; where war, racism, environmental degradation and poverty is no longer tolerated. Communist feel we have the natural resources, technological and scientific ability to accomplish this feat in the near future. Yet the powerful corporate capitalist forces driven by the quest for maximum profit block in every way the coming into being of a better world. I encourage you to read the Road to Socialism USA, the program of the Communist Party USA for a thorough discussion of what I have touched upon.

If you are anything like me this can seem overwhelming. After all the notion of bringing a better world into being is not small potatoes. I think if we work for changing for the better the areas we are engaged in, we will be doing our part in the creation of the better world.

As young people you are faced with rising tuitions for education and a lack of employment opportunities. You are confronted with issues around immigration rights, gay rights, and how to encourage youth participation in the electoral process among other issues. Your participation around any of them, in part, determines the direction and pace in which they move. Naturally, I would hope you push in a progressive direction. I read that Lindsay McCluskey, president of the United States Student Association, said the number one issue on young people’s mind today is jobs. I am sure she will find ways to fight for jobs for young people. I am also sure she supports the AFL-CIO five point program which calls for extending unemployed benefits, rebuilding America’s schools, roads and energy systems; increasing aid to state and local governments; putting people back to work and using the excess money used to bail out Wall Street to create new jobs.

Some of you may be concerned about the state of public education in our country. I have a co-worker who went to Farragut High School on the west side of Chicago. He has two sons who attend public school in the western suburbs. They are good boys doing well in school and excel on their sport teams. However their age peers on the west side of Chicago are not doing so well. They are not reaching their potential. Much of it is due to the lack of equal funding for education. In America every child should receive a quality education which can be attained in public schools. Every student should be able to realize whatever potential they have. Adequate funding for education which includes fairly paid unionized teachers is an ongoing political challenge.

Photo: (CC)


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