NEW YORK — The struggle to defeat NYC’s Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg was an overriding theme at the New York State Communist Party’s May 22 district convention here. Although New York faces many issues, the delegates resolved that the overriding fight is to defeat Bloomberg, a billionaire media mogul who spent $72 million on his election four years ago.
In her opening report, State Chair Elena Mora said the two main pillars of Bush administration policy, which must be fought and defeated to weaken the ultra-right, were the privatization of Social Security and the war in Iraq. She described the impact of the Bush agenda on New York, connecting it to defeating Bloomberg in November.
“The importance of the mayor’s race goes beyond the boundaries of our five boroughs,” Mora said. “This is not just about who will run New York City. The mayoral race will be a key battle in the fight against the Bush agenda and the right wing. At the Working Families Party mayoral candidates forum last week, someone asked the question: If Bloomberg wins, does it help Bush? The answer is yes.”
During discussion, many speakers concurred. It was Bloomberg who invited Republican National Convention to New York, one delegate said, and he did it against the will of the majority of New Yorkers. Many spoke about Bloomberg’s union busting and privatization push.
Danny Rubin, chair of a party club in Brooklyn, called Bloomberg an “enabler” of the Bush administration. He said while Republican Gov. George Pataki and Bloomberg painted themselves as moderates on some social issues, they are in lockstep with Bush on economics. Rubin cited Bloomberg’s development plans that would give billions of public dollars to corporate developers. Responding to the mayor’s argument that developers will create jobs, Rubin said, “This is Reagan-style, trickle-down economics.”
Maria Ortiz, a public school teacher, described life for educators and children. She said Bloomberg had imposed a corporate model on public schools. Though the city has touted a rise in test scores among fourth graders as proof of success, two other teachers called the test scores “misleading.” The Department of Education merely shuffled around fourth graders and held some back in third grade, they said.
The critical need to fight for unity and against racism was addressed by many of the more than 70 delegates. In all work, including the upcoming elections, racism is a poison that can only divide progressive movements, speakers said.
Responding to Bloomberg’s claims of a post-Sept. 11 “recovery,” Mora said, “When poverty is at 21 percent, half of Black men are jobless, 1.8 million people — a quarter of the population — have no health coverage, children in the ‘capital of the world’ are using outdated books and sharing classrooms with cleaning supplies, and asthma is an epidemic, it’s a grim joke to talk about a recovery.”
Upcoming contract battles in the city’s transit and teachers unions will loom large in the anti-Bloomberg fight, Gary Bono, the N.Y. party’s labor secretary, said. “The mayor is a roadblock.”
On the positive side, Bono said, are the re-election of AFSCME D.C. 1707’s progressive leadership and the modest successes of the “stop Wal-Mart” coalition, which was initiated by labor and which has drawn in many organizations, including from immigrant communities.
Delegates from the rest of the state, including from Buffalo and Rochester, spoke about the situation in their cities. Buffalo is in a deep budget crisis. It has been taken over by a state-appointed control board and residents face the elimination of most city services. While upstate and western New York are in a crisis, speakers said, Gov. Pataki continues to defend his tax cuts to the rich, which have totaled in the billions.
The convention delegates resolved to fight for peace, Social Security and against the ultra-right agenda. They also passed resolutions to build the Communist Party, the party’s press, and the Young Communist League.