Convention Discussion: Report to Northern California Convention Discussion

BY: Juan Lopez| April 20, 2010

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

Report by District Organizer Juan Lopez unanimously approved by the Northern California Regional Convention March 27, 2010. Abridged for pre-convention discussion.

On the way to Socialism: Moving into the November elections with the wind at our back

The signing into law of the new health care reform package has all the earmarks of a historic victory in more ways than one.

It was not all that any of us wanted, but neither was Social Security to earlier generations when it was first enacted into law. It was in the course of subsequent battles that it was improved.

Similarly, health care reform will take many more fights and a radically changed balance of forces before it becomes fully enshrined in the Bill of Rights, as an amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing free health care for all as a basic human right.

That we could not win the public option despite majority public support for it was mainly the function of the present balance of forces in the Senate, where it was blocked by a rock-solid Republican opposition and weak-kneed conservative Democrats.

Unlike the new health care law, Social Security and Medicare were initially passed with majorities that included a substantial number of Republicans in both houses of Congress.

One of the significant things about the health care victory is that it has re-energizing the coalition that elected President Obama, especially at the grassroots.

At the same time, it is disorienting the Republican rightwing opposition.

With the wind at our back, a more confident labor and people’s movement can now move to the next major fights – bank and financial regulation, jobs and immediate relief for the people – on the way to the crucial midterm elections.

The fight against racism and other forms of discrimination

In the recent string of racist verbal and physical attacks against African Americans in Congress and in society, we are witnessing a counteroffensive by the right.

These and other initiatives by the far right have the putrid odor of fascism.

The danger these groups and their actions represent cannot be taken lightly.

It is encouraging, however, to see organized labor, and other people’s organizations join civil rights groups in unequivocally condemning these hateful remarks and acts.

Racist, anti-woman and other divisive ideas and actions must be challenged. Otherwise, they can undermine and destroy the unity of the people’s movements.

The November elections

What’s at play in November is huge!

Who will pay for the economic crisis – the working class, especially people of color – or the rich and Wall Street? Will the planet’s fate head ever more rapidly towards catastrophe or will humanity be able to change its course in time?

The response to these and other challenges facing our nation and world will in large measure be determined by the outcome of the midterm elections.

So the task is to defeat the Republican rightwing more decisively and, where possible, increase the number of Democrats in Congress, especially more progressives.

Due to the multi-class and fluid nature of the all people’s coalition – whose common goal is to defeat of the Republican rightwing – it becomes all the more important to stress and strengthen the core forces, especially the working class and its organized sector.

A question for each one of us: What is my club, and what am I personally, going to do about strengthening this coalition among the core forces in the neighborhood, workplace, church, union, civil rights or peace group?

Jobs and immediate relief

Organized labor and other progressive social movements see the building of a movement for jobs as crucial to finding some measure of relief for the people and putting the nation back on its feet, whatever anyone may think about the resiliency of capitalism.

In any case, if we hope to demonstrate that we are sincere about our intentions to aid the class and people, we must jump into this fight with both feet.

Furthermore, if we expect people to listen to our views regarding the need for more basic reforms and more fundamentally about the crying need for socialism, we’d better jump with both feet into the fight for more immediate partial demands.

After the immigrant rights demonstration of 200,000 in the nation’s capital last weekend, the March 4 mass actions on education, the health care victory as well as the potential for a massive fight for jobs, I can easily foresee the rise of a new wave of protest in the country, rapidly increasing in size and intensity.

Taken together, these actions create a more favorable political environment for the working class, its allies and the all people’s coalition to strike a decisive blow against the far right November 2.

California is a key state that will help determine which way the elections go.

Thus, it becomes even more important to help build a much bigger and stronger all people’s coalition to defeat the far right in our state, especially among labor, the racially and nationally oppressed, women and youth at the grassroots.

Party, YCL and press building

We can be proud of the role we played in the 2008 elections and the fight for health care reform.

I think what makes us unique is twofold:

We understand Marxism as a living science, not a dogma, and as a guide to understand and change the surroundings in which we live and function.

Flowing from our understanding of Marxism, the other unique aspect is our strategic sense and the struggle to put it into practice.

In this regard, I want to paraphrase the main discussion document (see the six bullet points in the Main Discussion Document: U.S. Politics at a Transition Point pages 22 in English and 66 in Spanish versions of the pre-convention booklet).

As the main document says, “our strategic policy works as a concrete guide to understand and change the neighborhood, workplace, city, state, nation and world that we live in.”

How to build the Party, YCL and press in the course of struggle is not yet at the top of our list of priorities.

How to build the club so it is more vibrant, educationally and culturally enriching, spiritually uplifting, fun, above all action oriented, and, last but not least, pleasing to the palate and satisfying to the belly.

In these hard times, the club is the place where the member or friend can pour her/his heart out with the grief that comes with trying to make ends meet and expect the club to help in personal as well as political ways to ease her/his situation.

Have a concrete plan. Who do we want to bring closer to the Party or ask to join us? How and when do we want to do this?

What are the points of entry? Regular PW blasts, club or district public events, educational, regular dinner outings, joint struggles? Which combination of these, or other points of entry, will work in each particular case?

Be flexible, experiment, think outside the box.

Most importantly: Be consistent; be dogged about it!

Perhaps, we can thank the Tea Party folks and their rightwing corporate handlers for popularizing the words socialism and communism.

In any case, it presents for us both a challenge and an opportunity to discuss with people the real meaning of socialism and the real role of the Party.

Let’s not miss the boat!





    Juan Lopez is chairman of the Communist Party in northern California and statewide coordinator. He has been a labor and community activist during the nearly forty years he's lived in Oakland, where he and his wife raised three children. He was formerly a member of the Teamsters union and a shop steward.

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