Structure and Organization Committee

BY:Evelina Alarcon| September 21, 2001

Speech given at the 27th National Convention of the CPUSA

The Structure and Organization Convention
Committee included Marc Brodine (WA), Bill Davis (NY), Rosita Johnson
(E. PA), Steve Noffke (MI), Brian Steinberg CT), Shelby Richardson (Ill)
and Mark Almberg (ILL).

After having met six times, we submitted our proposals
to the National Board and then National Committee. The National Committee
agreed with the direction of proposals in the report and then it was submitted
for pre-Convention discussion. This report was placed on our Web site,
not only available to our members but the public at large. It was also
printed in a special Convention bulletin, which included all reports to
the last National Committee. This was sent to all clubs and Districts.
In addition, the report was printed as a separate discussion document
on its own, which was also sent to the entire Party for discussion.

The Committee met an additional two times after the NC
meeting to continue to discuss clubs. I will make a proposal based on
that as part of this report.

In five minutes it is not possible to summarize the original
16-page report. What I will do is to present a few goals of the report
and then make proposals.

The transition of leadership over the last year and a
half launched a process of improving our organization and structure, adopting
innovations to improve the work.

The call for wiring every club on the Internet has created
a new and faster method of communication and exchange between the Party
and the base of the Party. National phone conferencing, which was never
more used than in preparing for this Convention, allowed for the first
time for representation from the whole country from coast to coast in
political and organizational preparations for every aspect of this Convention.
Literally hundreds of people in and out of the Party participated in lively
pre-Convention discussion on the Internet. The working groups on a wide
range of subjects, while not accomplishing all that we had hoped, really
laid the groundwork for broadening our discussion on questions that we
had not given enough attention to, like gay and lesbian rights and our
work in the religious community. These changes have revolutionized our
ability to connect with the whole Party. The ability to draw from the
experience and thinking of the Party base across the country on a quick
and regular basis, is one of the main reasons for the success and unity
of this Convention.

Our Committee discussion and proposals are part of a process
which will continue after this Convention because it is clear that we
could not take up all questions. And many questions require more thought,
more exchange, than the time that we had to consider them.

Our goal was to make proposals that would help us to be
better organized, more streamlined to allow for more connection to the
upsurge of the labor and people’s movement, more action based, more responsive
in a timely way, more results oriented, more based on our Party reality,
more transparent, more democratic, but at the same time collective and

We discussed that democratic centralism should not be
seen as a static set of structures, but as a flexible concept that communist
parties have applied in ways that fit their specific circumstances.

Our Committee concluded that generally we have been overbalanced
on the centralism side. So we made proposals for democratizing the structure
and organization. At the same time, we think that as we move to democratize
the Party we should try to be balanced, not swinging too far, especially
related to "internal processing" versus action orientation.
We also made proposals related to check up and accountability.

A number of our Committee proposals were put into action
by the National Board and National Committee as we worked towards this
Convention. That included the idea for a national pool of comrades to
be proposed from the Districts for consideration to the National Committee
and other national bodies. We proposed that timely exchange between the
Districts and the national center on proposals for the National Committee
was crucial.

By and large the response to the proposals in this report
have been extremely positive. That which received the most enthusiasm
were the conclusions about how our National Committee needs to be more
collective and deliberative and open for debate and disagreement as part
of the process of arriving at conclusion. That opened up the question
of how to be structured to have more genuine exchange at every level of
the Party.

The report also emphasized that our national decisions
should be based on genuine consultation with the entire base of the Party.
That means much better organization and preparation at the national level
to insure District and club input and experience before arriving at decisions.
It also means our national bodies need to be more District- and club-conscious

There was also a welcoming to the proposal that NC members
have to be more responsible in terms of attendance of NC meetings and
the implementing of decisions in their given Districts. In general, there
was a positive response to the whole idea of review and improvement at
every level.

Because time is short, I now want to focus on what our
Committee proposes for adoption by the Convention without going into all
the thinking that was in the 16-page report.

Our Committee’s proposals focused on the national bodies
of the Party, especially the functioning of the National Committee.

  1. The National Committee should be more established as
    the highest decision making body of the Party by meeting a minimum of
    three times a year.
  2. The size of the NC should be reduced to fit our reality
    and to allow for more deliberation. This was taken into account in the
    proposal for the new National Committee. Our past National Committee
    had some 154 members. A proposal for 120 was made to the Convention.
    Although this didn’t meet all the concerns of the Committee, especially
    those related to the ability to have real exchange, we understood that
    the reality of a transition of leadership would make the reduction of
    size a matter of process over time.
  3. We made several proposals related to structuring our
    NC meetings and preparation for the meeting to allow for more deliberation.

    Emphasis was placed on better preparation for our
    NC meetings with the focus on inviting input of the Party prior to
    the NC before we make decisions. That means that ideas and proposals
    should be shared with the NC members, Districts and clubs before the
    meeting to allow for input. We propose using the Internet as well
    as the PartyBuilder for this, and attendance by national leaders in
    district and club meetings for exchange.

    We also propose that our NC meetings be organized
    differently to allow for more exchange and debate. That included more
    reports on specific questions with resolutions. This proposal was
    implemented at the last NC on several questions. It was a major improvement
    and opened up a refreshing atmosphere in the NC.

    We propose that more consideration be given to how
    NC decisions are going to be implemented and who is going to do it
    before arriving at decisions. There should also be check up of NC
    decisions at the following NC.

  4. More geographic balance should be established in
    the membership of the NC so that our decisions reflect the whole nation
    and not be overbalanced on the East Coast.

  5. If resolutions to the National Convention could not
    be discussed at the Convention, the incoming NC should insure that
    each one is addressed, and that they be handled seriously, not like
    in the past.

  6. The Convention should agree with the direction of
    the proposals related to the National Board, National Organization
    Committee, National Commissions, but the specifics should be referred
    to the incoming National Committee to be considered within the overall
    new structure which the NC will have to adopt.

  7. The incoming National Committee should establish
    an Education Department. We also propose that a committee related
    to media be established.

  8. Building regional centers of the Party based in New
    York, Chicago and Los Angeles should be a priority with a view towards
    establishing similar centers in the South and New England as soon
    as possible. That means building up strong collectives and providing
    resources, which would include full-time organizers. It doesn’t mean
    separate political bodies. This proposal relates to helping make our
    Party more of a national Party.

  9. The sections on the Districts and clubs should be
    referred to the incoming National Committee, as well, with the idea
    that the Convention agrees on the direction of the report but we want
    to add this specific proposal related to clubs for adoption by the

    Our committee had three discussions about the status
    of clubs and club building but there was not enough time to arrive
    at a conclusion, nor to allow for full Party-wide discussion to take
    place prior to the Convention. We have different experiences and proposals
    for solutions, but we are all agreed that the question of club building
    deserves priority consideration from our incoming National Committee
    and needs a process that involves the whole party in discussing how
    to strengthen clubs.

    We are all challenged to build modern 21st century
    clubs which are centered on organizing the all peoples’ front against
    the extreme right, clubs which are focused on participation in mass
    work on mass issues, clubs which are building labor/community coalition
    in communities, neighborhoods, shops and workplaces, clubs which build
    the Party, YCL and press as an integral part of that work, and that
    build as many shop and neighborhood clubs as is possible.

    That challenge requires a big change in our approach
    to the base of our Party organization. We need to frontload our organizational
    agenda with helping the clubs. The membership review was a good start
    but only a start. Now we have to follow up with exchange of club experience,
    conclusions and decisions that help us restructure to allow for increased
    support to clubs from our national center, state and District organization.

    We propose that the incoming NC adopt a process by
    which the whole Party can work to improve our clubs and club leadership
    to meet this challenge over the coming year. Needless to say, strong
    District involvement in the process is a must. The time is riper than
    before to make club changes following our inspiring National Convention.

    Our Committee has some ideas for how the process should
    take place. We will pass that on to the incoming National Committee.

I move that we adopt these proposals as a whole. This
is a package proposal. Each part relates to the whole. It only works
if adopted in sync with one another.

Thank you.


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