Convention Discussion: Two ideas to build the Party

BY: Wadi’h Halabi And Tom Whitney| May 14, 2014

Submitted by Wadi’h Halabi and Sandy Rosen of Massachusetts, and Tom Whitney of Maine

Two ideas to Build the Party Today:

Revive International labor Defense and develop a Youth/Union alliance for good union jobs and against debt slavery

This is potentially a good time for party building: Wages are falling, social and individual debt slavery and poverty are rising, national and gender oppression is deepening. So is police and prison brutality, domestic and international aggressions, government secrecy and spying – the list is long. The general crisis of capitalism is still unfolding.

The Occupy Movement, the recent election in Seattle, and the good showing of our comrade Nick Giannone, who ran for town office as an open CPUSA member, are among the many reasons for confidence and boldness on our part.

The ruling class is largely discredited. In fact, it has been compelled to attack its own social base, smaller exploiters, who have been losing ground or going bankrupt, especially since 2007.

The great majority of workers, youth and oppressed are looking for a way out. The Communist Party can provide direction, build on our history and connections with other CPs worldwide, and mobilize the righteous anger in a productive way.

Here are two ideas that we believe can help build the party and movement:

1. Reviving International Labor Defense

International Labor Defense was an organization founded by the Communist Party USA in Chicago in 1925 (when we were known as the Workers Party of America). By 1926 it had 20,000 dues-paying members. The ILD worked to build solidarity and unity in the world labor movement. It mobilized to defend persecuted labor organizers and members of oppressed nations under attack from the exploiters and their state. Its defense of the Scottsboro Boys in the 1930s turned into a worldwide campaign and also facilitated organizing the Sharecroppers Union.

CPUSA leader Sam Dlugin, the father of our comrade Lee Dlugin, participated in the original ILD.  His agitational pamphlet, “Blood on the Sugar”, written in defense of Cuban workers, can be found on the web.  In fact, the Communist Party of Cuba organized ILD branches in 1933.

Repression breeds resistance.  As with the crises of the 1920s and ’30s, capital’s deepening contradictions and crisis today is resulting in rising police brutality and prison hells, in the US, Mexico, Colombia, indeed in most capitalist countries. And as with the 1920s, this may be a good time to revive International Labor Defense. It is certainly a necessary task of the period.

Already, there are many prisoner defense efforts around the world. Our own comrades have participated in efforts in defense of Mumia and other African-American and Puerto Rican political prisoners, the Cuba 5, Los Mineros and electrical workers in Mexico, David Ravelo and other Colombian political prisoners, and many more. In Massachusetts, a remarkable Jobs not Jails coalition has developed in recent months.

In addition, there are thousands of campaigns worldwide in defense of prisoners, some large, some small. Reviving International Labor Defense can help join these many campaigns and build international labor solidarity.

The CPUSA was the organizing center of the original ILD. Today it may be best if an international union federation or grouping of unions in an industry, such as transport or metal, serves as the ILD’s organizing center. CP leadership and guidance of course remains essential.

As Communists, we can build on our historic connections and special access to CPs (and many unions) worldwide to help develop ILD. There are indications that the CPs of China, Cuba, Portugal, Colombia, and several other states could lend support to reviving ILD.

One important task of the ILD will be selection of prisoners to be defended and the corresponding class education. This is in part because the capitalist class is certain to attempt to weaken or neutralize a revived ILD by promoting anti-working class prisoners held in states such as Cuba, Vietnam and China.

2. Let’s build a Youth/Union Alliance for good unionized jobs to meet human needs, funded by repudiation of government debt and debt slavery.

Of capitalism’s many crimes, chronic mass unemployment in many ways is the worst. As a saying goes, the only thing worse than being exploited under capitalism, is not being exploited under capitalism. Humans have a profound need to contribute to our society. Chronic unemployment communicates the devastating message – Society has no use for you! The message is usually accompanied by an equally-devastating absence of the social support and solidarity that humans also need. No wonder that unemployment has such a profound effect on health.

Several US laws obligate the Federal government to full employment – the Employment Act of 1946, the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act of 1978, and the charter of the Federal Reserve Bank. To be sure, the authors of those acts considered 3% or 4% unemployment “full employment”. But official unemployment in the US has long been well above that, and real unemployment is much higher still, especially when we count those forced into self-employment, and part-time, temp and informal jobs. Real unemployment rates among African-Americans, Puerto Ricans, Chicanos, native peoples, the disabled, youth and those over 50, exceed 10%, and in some cases today exceed 20%.

Simultaneously, hundreds of thousands of unionized state and municipal workers have been thrown out of work in the past six years; one major factor has been continued debt service by states and municipalities, although the ruling class often conceals debt and rarely ties it to layoffs. At the same time, since 2007-8, the federal government has effectively erased trillions in dollars in bad debts held by the – ruling class, the owners of the big banks and insurance companies. Yes, trillions. (Some experts, such as former Senator Bill Bradley and former Wall Street exec Nomi Prins, have placed the figure at over $15 trillion.)  

Education, like full employment, is a social responsibility. But millions of youth in the US are facing “student debt slavery”, a form of “indentured servitude” but without even servant jobs to pay the debt down. Worse yet, bankruptcy laws passed at the behest of the owners of capital make it extremely difficult to erase student debt. One result has been to push millions of youth to live with their parents or several roommates, and to accept terrible wage and work conditions. Some youth have committed suicide as a result, while others have fallen into depression or destructive actions.

The time is ripe for a youth-union alliance for good union jobs for all to meet human needs (for schools, affordable housing, recreational facilities — not for prisons, repression, spying, etc.). One way to pay for the jobs is by ending the massive, ongoing debt service by states and municipalities, much of which is hidden. One legal “hook” is that the federal government is violating its obligations to full employment.

Unions and the Communist Party can develop an alliance with youth not only in the struggle for good union jobs to meet human needs, but in support for erasure of all student debt. Legal and legislative initiatives can help advance this effort, the important thing is to remain focused on the goal – Good union jobs to meet human needs!

We proclaim that education is a social responsibility! Full employment is a social responsibility. Public health is a social responsibility. Environmental sustainability is a social responsibility.

We want to contribute to our society and to meet human needs – capitalism stands in the way of both!

Workers of the World Unite! has been the central Communist call ever since 1848. The first step in uniting the workers of the world is conscious uniting Communist Parties everywhere, as a leader of the Communist Party of China has explained. A second step is uniting unions worldwide. International Labor Defense can help advance both, free political prisoners – and also build the CPUSA.

And developing a youth-union alliance for good union jobs and to end debt slavery can also help build the CPUSA (and unions), mobilize some of the youthful energy our movement surely can use – and advance our overriding goal of meeting human needs.

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


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