Convention Discussion: A Reply to “A Time to Grow”

BY: Dan Margolis| February 4, 2010
Convention Discussion: A Reply to “A Time to Grow”

This article is part of the discussion leading up to the Communist Party USA’s 29th National Convention May 21-23, 2010. takes no responsibility for the opinions expressed in this article or other articles in the pre-convention discussion. All contributions must meet the guidelines for discussion. To read other contributions to this discussion, visit the site of the Pre-Convention Discussion period.

All contributions to the discussion should be sent to for selection not to the individual venues.For more information on the convention or the pre-convention discussion period, you can email

I was pleased to read the pre-Convention discussion document, “A Time to Grow,” by a number of youthful members of the Communist Party and the Young Communist League. It is always inspiring to see that there are other young people around who want to help take responsibility for building the organization. Still, I disagree with some of the particulars, specifically on the role of the Party and the “Communist plus,” as well as on the process of growing the Communist movement overall.

The main thing that the Communist Party can contribute, i.e. its main role, is in the field of strategy and tactics. It is entirely true, as the document noted, that anyone reading this would likely also be working on the fight for to support the health care plan that was put forward by Barack Obama, along with organizations like Organizing for America, HCAN, etc. But, because we have a background in the CPUSA and the YCL, we bring something different and special to this movement-a strategic concept of who the main players are, who the main enemies slowing down the process of change are, what is possible and so on.

When there were setbacks in the fight for health care, there was demoralization and frustration. Our Bronx club, which was instrumental in building an Organizing for America-based local organization, helped fight this feeling and, in the process, gained a good deal of experience. It can be said that, without the Communist Party, and solid leadership from one comrade in particular, the OFA group could have easily disbanded itself. Also, the Party was able and is able to play a leadership role in the question of what we’re fighting for, and in what context: why not some kind of National Health Service, as in the U.K., right now, or for Medicare for All? Why was even the watered-down Senate bill a victory? How do any of these victories contribute to the forward motion of the struggle overall?

Putting all those questions together is a key role of the Party and YCL, as it helps to build the unity and forward motion of the progressive forces.

Another example would be the upcoming jobs fight. We’ve said that this is the key struggle, and that puts us in agreement with all of the major players in the core forces. There is a national coalition in place for this battle, but how do we help build it? It is our job to help bring it to life, and to localize it, bring it to the grassroots. This is something different from place to place, and it takes a Communist Party to figure this out. In New York, we have a situation in which the Central Labor Council isn’t playing a leading role in the city’s labor movement. Most of the biggest unions in the city are outside the CLC. How do we bring them together in this fight? (And in so doing, how can we contribute to overall labor unity in this city?)

At the grassroots level, how do we pull organizations and people in our periphery into this coalition? In Brooklyn, we have to consider how we can bring the large Black churches into the fight. How can we utilize the organizational connections we have, the relationships with elected officials, to do so?

On the electoral front, it would be good to have more of our own candidates running for office. But right now, this can’t be our main electoral contribution. We have to be part of the fight to defeat what’s left of the ultra right, and make sure they don’t make a comeback in the mid-term elections. Others on the left see these elections either as ends in themselves or deviations from the “real” struggle. But the Communist Party can exercise a leadership role by helping to show the importance of electing or defending Democrats as part of an overall strategy on the road towards socialism.

And we, more than anyone else, can and do tie together the fight for jobs with the electoral battle coming up later this year. Being in these struggles-not initiating new things separate and aside from them-is where we can meet people, gain new members.

In all these things, fellow activists will be impressed by Communists not only or even primarily due to our long-term goals, but by our sober-minded estimates of where we are, what the balance of power is, and what the next step has to be.

On the question of membership overall, while I feel the same frustration that the document’s authors feel, I don’t agree with the reasons listed for the Party’s slow growth (the document mistakenly states that the Party is getting smaller; actually, aside from attrition, the Party is slowly gaining members). I don’t think we can blame the national staff, or lack of will coming from our leadership overall. I would have to say that they are doing a good job overall in the current situation.

All of the comrades on staff in a non-editorial position are in touch with the membership in their respective areas on a day-to-day basis, as are the editorial comrades who are not overwhelmed by their tasks of writing and editing the Party press.

We are in a strange period: while there is an energized populace, ready to fight for progress, many, if not all, people’s organizations are struggling for membership. This is a fact that must be taken into account. The Party has been experimenting with different forms of organization: we recently replaced the Organizing Department with a Coordinating Committee, which includes all of the district organizers, who come together twice monthly to discuss the best ways to implement plans going forward. This committee just appointed two leading comrades to coordinate membership.

We could put together numeric goals, but that doesn’t address the real political and organizational questions that need to be figured out.

There are a few other things I would add, but won’t go into for the sake of brevity. We do have a plan, so to speak, as to which industries are our main national priorities, as well as place to place. We in New York have a special emphasis on the teachers, transit workers, health care workers, the public workers: these are the most organized and decisive sections of the New York City working class.

Also, I would take issue with the discussion of who “the left” is. We can’t narrow it down simply to the 20 percent of the population that chose “socialism” on a single opinion poll that has, in my opinion, received way too much attention. We’ve seen the beginnings of a really new left: within the labor movement under Trumka, those who have come out for some form of health reform, the new jobs coalition, the movement of activists in Organizing for America, etc. These are the newly invigorated activists on the rising left with whom we want to be associated.

Once again, though I disagree with some of the things the comrades said, I am glad that the spirit of building the Party and the YCL is being taken seriously by a number of comrades around my own age.


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