New York City is still reeling from the tragic events of Sept. 11. Even though the last remains to be discovered from that terrorist attack have passed by our headquarters on the way to the city morgue, the massive loss of life on that terrible day is still sending shock waves throughout the city. People are very worried, they are scared and some are blindly following George W. Bush, mainly because they don’t see another way of ending terrorism.
But New York City has more than one ground zero. There are other great tragedies in this town that you won’t hear much about in the media, but are causing great suffering, fear, anger and, yes, loss of life. I’m talking about the state of the economy, the growing numbers of jobless and homeless, the Rockefeller Drug Laws, the problem of jails not jobs, the growing discrimination based on race, gender, sexual preference and whether you are a citizen or not.
There are other ground zeros that have gotten worse after the Bloomberg/Pataki cutbacks in education and health care, which includes the shameful level of infant mortality and the AIDS crisis.
Even the way they are distributing the disaster funds is biased against the working class, racially oppressed and small businesses. These ground zeros result from capitalism. And when you talk about homelessness, lack of health care, infant mortality, AIDS and the criminalization of our youth, it is just as deadly as what happened on Sept. 11, 2001.
We are happy to report that the people of New York City are not being pacified by the phony patriotism they are being fed. They are in motion. They are still fighting for their rights. Thousands of New Yorkers poured into Washington, D.C., on April 20. On May Day, 60,000 teachers marched on the Board of Education, and in early June, over 60,000 marched on City Hall against the proposed budget cuts in education. Right now, as we speak, transit workers in Queens are on strike.
Communists, like a lot of New Yorkers, mourn those who perished on Sept. 11, while we organize for peace, economic and political justice; while we fight for democracy.
And it’s important to note that our presence in this new movement is stronger and more consistent where we have active clubs.
You are here to tackle a most important question, how to strengthen our party at its base, so that we can have a stronger presence at the grassroots, which is key to building our party and the mass movements to new heights.
This is a time for action and we must organize our party so that it can better act on the critical problems before us.
When you want to build a house you call a contractor. If that contractor tells you he is going to build your house from the second floor down, you know what you have to do – immediately call another contractor!
You cannot seriously build the Party without building it at the club level. We are here to figure out what it will take to build many new clubs and transform our existing clubs into viable, active-organized units of struggle. With the right approach and spirit, we can transform our party.
Jarvis Tyner is the Executive Vice Chair of the Communist Party USA and the chair of the Harlem/Washington Heights club. This article is based on the welcoming remarks he gave to the CPUSA’s conference on building clubs and grassroots organizing.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org