“This is a key struggle,” CPUSA National Chair Sam Webb said in closing remarks. The ultra-right “wants to lock in control of that court,” he said. “Perhaps they will begin with reproductive rights, but they won’t stop there.”
“The next nominee to the Supreme Court has to become a central concern for our party,” and for all democratic-minded Americans, he declared.
A windup panel featuring Jobs with Justice, steelworker and other labor activists highlighted four major national action campaigns: winning passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, protecting workers’ pensions and Social Security, combating anti-worker Wal-Mart, and passage of “Medicare for all” bill HR 676.
High on the agenda was the call for a prompt U.S. pullout from Iraq and support for the Iraqi people’s struggles for political and economic sovereignty. The participants jumped to their feet to cheer a young American soldier who joined the CPUSA at an Army base in Germany before being sent to Iraq. They also gave a standing ovation to the representative of the Iraqi Communist Party, and unanimously passed a special resolution of solidarity with the ICP’s multifaceted efforts to end the U.S. occupation and build a united, multiethnic, democratic secular state.
International guests from communist and workers parties of 15 countries were greeted with standing ovations at an International Solidarity Night. In addition to Iraq, the countries represented were Brazil, Britain, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Greece, India, Iran, Japan, Mexico, Portugal, South Africa, Sudan and Vietnam. Cuba’s Communist Party was blocked from sending a representative by Bush administration travel restrictions. The Cubans sent a message of greeting, as did the Communist Party of China.
The convention began with the rhythms of Puerto Rican drumming group Nuestro Tambó.
Opening the convention, Illinois CP organizer John Bachtell invoked “the voice of the Illini, the Potawatamie and Miamis, the first to raise egalitarian communities on this land.”
Although Chicago’s stockyards, killing floors and packing houses, steel mills and garment shops are mostly gone, Bachtell said, the city “remains a magnificent center of working-class struggle and culture, a place where every race and nationality have converged, where scores of languages are spoken, where the rhythms of blues, jazz, salsa, rock, mariachi and polka intermingle and blood, sweat and tears flow together.”
“This is the story of our multiracial, multinational working class and people in the face of every cunning and despicable effort by the ruling class to divide us.”
In his keynote speech, Webb said, “We cannot allow the right wing to appropriate the symbols, language and images of our nation’s past and fasten them to their reactionary political project.” Despite the shortcomings in our society, he said, “there is still much to claim ownership of in our history; it is working people in the first place who have strong feelings of pride in the country they built.”
He called for urgent, united action to defeat the Bush administration’s “war against the people” and its “long-abiding ambition — world empire.”
The role of the left, he said, “is to move and unite broader forces. It is to engage in the struggles that are stirring people to action. And it is to help the broader movements to move from one stage of struggle to the next.” In that connection, “our charge” is to build the Communist Party and the Young Communist League, Webb said. “In doing so, we will strengthen the broader movements.”
Many speakers dealt with labor unity, immigrant rights and the manifold struggles against racism and for worker rights. Much discussion centered on the relationship between the fight for democracy and challenging capitalism.
After a spirited debate, following six months’ preconvention discussion, the convention adopted a comprehensive new program, “The Road to Socialism USA,” incorporating many changes proposed during the discussion.
The gathering also approved a main political resolution headlined “Defeat the Bush Agenda — The People Can Win!” and elected a new 81-person national committee to lead the party for the next four years.
A special resolution calling for extradition of anti-Cuba terrorist Luis Posada Carriles was passed by acclamation, and a host of other resolutions were approved.
Among the guests were elected officials from several states, leaders of peace and justice organizations, and outstanding cultural performers, including Chicago’s legendary Margaret Burroughs, founder of the DuSable Museum of African American History, who read several poems.
William McNary, USAction president and Illinois Citizen Action co-director, fired up the opening day, saying, “I can’t think of a better place to be on a Friday afternoon.”
“Because of the activism in this room, we all breathe freer,” he said. The future will belong to such “grassroots heroes who work to make our country better.”
Marlene Patrick Cooper, lead organizer and treasurer of UNITE HERE Local 1, described how Chicago’s hotel management was ramping up pressure on workers. Responding to her invitation to join the nearby Congress Hotel strikers’ picket line, hundreds of convention participants swelled the line the next day. (See page 2.)
Walking the Michigan Avenue picket line, convention delegate Dorothy Johnson, former president of UE Local 299 in Connecticut, said joining the picketing “is all about” what the party is — “we’re about fight, struggle, saving people.”