Convention Discussion: Two critical areas of our work

BY: Juan Lopez| June 5, 2014

Submitted by Juan Lopez, National Vice Chair, Oakland, CA

Below are some thoughts on the fight for equality, and campus work. They aren’t meant to be comprehensive; rather their purpose is to raise some questions that deserve in my opinion further discussion now and after the convention.

Equality vs. Racism and gender discrimination

For those of us old enough to have witnessed the encrusted racism and male-supremacy of the predominantly white male top labor leadership through the post-WW II Cold War and MacCarthy era, it was refreshing to witness the great strides made on these fronts by last year’s AFL-CIO convention.

Given the persistent ideological influence of racist and male supremacist notions among sections of the population, it was heartening to see a multiracial group of delegates of both genders – including top AFL-CIO officers – speak thoughtfully and forcefully on behalf of resolutions condemning both forms of discrimination.

In an impassioned presentation, the President of the National Organization of Women Terry O’Neill linked the relentless assault on women’s economic security with the attack on women’s reproductive rights.

As Sam Webb so incisively exposed, today many of the old ideological racist justifications re-appear in their old raw forms and in new sinister forms under the guise of a “post racial color-blind” era.

Yes, racism, xenophobia and sexism definitely is the product of the far right with the rise of the Reagan administration in the1980s.

But, it is more.

Old ideological justifications re-appear in new form to prop up a modern-day racism stitched into the economic and political fabric of 21st Century U.S. capitalism itself.

On these fronts, we are poised to make our contributions beginning with the struggle to organize low-wage workers who in their large majority are people of color, women and youth, a formidable potential force for economic, social justice and equality.

But, they cannot do it alone. It takes the solidarity of other sectors of the class and other social forces and movements.

Furthermore, we know that unity without the support and participation of a solid majority of white workers on the anti-racist front is shallow unity because victories will tend to be harder to come by and less durable.

The same can be said about winning a majority of male workers to the struggle against male supremacy.

We also know that, as we fight for the whole class and people around common issues, we have to find the ways to struggle for the particular needs of the specially oppressed.

And that applies with equal force to the LGBTQ community and other discriminated sections of the people.

Campuses and students

This brings me to a third popular task that intersects with both the environmental and labor fronts.

I’d like to advocate for the need to begin to take the first solid steps by the YCL and young student party members to grow the YCL and party among students at the college and university level.

Youth work on campuses will not grow in one fell swoop.

Pick one, two, three campuses where the possibilities are greatest.

It will take time and steady political and ideological development of young members, including a beefed up party educational program.

Just to get an idea of what is possible let’s go back in history.

College students played key roles in arousing the nation’s conscience and constituted front line fighters for peace and justice during the anti-Apartheid movement and before then in the 1960s during the Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam war struggles.

We were very much part of those struggles.

When I first came around the party in the 1960s, the Dubois clubs, predecessor to today’s YCL, led broadly based successful movements to end discrimination in the San Francisco hotel industry and auto row.

Today, the movement for divestment from fossil fuel companies emanating from university campuses is but one wide-open front of environmental struggle in which young communists could be playing a role.

Not to mention the struggles to bring down skyrocketing tuition and school loans as well as to increase funding for education which has resulted in widespread unity on some campuses (between student groups, teaching and technical unions, the community, and public officials) and some modest victories.

The labor movement has also been collaborating with students on campus in solidarity with low-wage workers, as with United Students against Sweatshops.

Overall, labor is currently emphasizing the organization of low-wage workers but some unions are also giving attention to organizing skilled workers most of whom require a college education, i.e. teachers, RNs, doctors, engineers, and high and bio tech workers.

What better way to assist the student, labor and environmental movements than to build YCL clubs on campuses with the party’s aid?

What better way to prepare groups of students schooled in struggles for justice, the environment and peace to go into the world once they graduate with the skills necessary to continue that fight in their particular professions and society’s general class and democratic struggles?

What better way to assist the working class and people in preparing the conditions for the new socialist society?

The views and opinions expressed in the Convention Discussion are those of the author alone. The Communist Party is publishing these views as a service to encourage discussion and debate. Those views do not necessarily reflect the views of the Communist Party, its leading bodies or staff members. The CPUSA Constitution, Program, and all its existing policies remain in effect during the Convention discussion period and during the Convention.

For details about the convention, visit the Convention homepage
To contribute to the discussion, visit the Convention Discussion webpage

30th National Convention, Communist Party USA
Chicago | June 13-15, 2014



    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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