The times are a-changin, says Communist organizer at Columbus festival

BY:Anita Waters| July 16, 2015
The times are a-changin, says Communist organizer at Columbus festival

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Columbus Ohio once again hosted the nation’s largest and oldest volunteer-run music and community festival, known locally as ComFest, during the last weekend in June. This year the Ohio District of the CPUSA sponsored a table on behalf of the district’s youth organizers which was staffed by young and old communists from across the state. During the three-day fest they spoke to hundreds of people, sold progressive literature and union-made apparel, and signed up dozens of people for the area’s mailing list.

John D’Alessandro of the Cincinnati young Communists said. “At a time when people are suffering under grotesque and crippling student debt, I think this weekend’s events are a good example of the Communist Party’s continuing dedication to the causes and voices of young people in our country. We’re experiencing an unprecedented period of growth because we speak to people where they are and offer real solutions to the problems of our time. The solution is socialism, and we’re going to fight like hell for the solution.”

Ohio District Organizer for the CPUSA, Rick Nagin, spoke from one of the ComFest stages, celebrating the historic Supreme Court decisions of the past week, and reporting on a Gallup Poll that shows that nearly half the people polled – 47% – would vote for a socialist for president. Among Democrats, that number goes up to 59%, and for young people 18-29, it goes up to 69%. Nagin quoted Bob Dylan: “‘The times, they are a-changin’ … The American people are hungry for change. The richest 1% of families have $30 trillion in assets- that’s $30 million for each of their families. Well, it’s time to change those rules and those laws.” Nagin called on the crowd to demand that the US use its resources “to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, to develop renewable energy industry, and to provide high quality free health care and education for all.”

ComFest was first organized in 1973 by community and anti-war peace activists. Among the festival’s guiding principles are “working for the collective good of all people rather than for personal gain…cooperation and collective activity rather than competition and individual profit,” and the fact that “the basic necessities of life are a right and not a privilege” as its guiding principles. Organizers also emphasize environmentalism and the destruction of attitudes such as racism, sexism, and homophobia which serve to divide the working class.

D’Alessandro said it was his first ComFest. The slogans that the organizers chose, “People Before Profit” and “Planet Before Profit,” convinced him to make the trip up from Cincinnati. “Of course we had to be there,” he said.

Zac Shea of Cincinnati was impressed by spirit of the festival. “You know you’re not at a lousy festival when you don’t see litter strewn across the park,” according to Shea, who also volunteered for the festival’s safety and recycling teams. ComFest organizers agreed. “We are very aware of the impact a festival like this has on the landscape. Recycling and cleanup are very important to us,” said Connie Everett, a veteran ComFest organizer. Organizers work tirelessly to remove any trace of their presence from the 165-year-old park after the event.

“I volunteered for my first Comfest in 2004. This festival is about lot more than indie music and self expression. We’re lucky to have such a party with a purpose here in our city,” said Tim Steinhelfer, Columbus resident and long-time Comfest volunteer. Comfest takes place annually during the last weekend in June.

At the table 60 festival goers signed a “Do you want to attend a CPUSA meeting form.”

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