Recently the Communist Party USA held its 30th National Convention in Chicago. In all, nearly 375 delegates and guests convened over the weekend of June 13-15 to affirm the Party’s strategic policy, hold panel and plenary discussions, conduct workshops and outline new areas of organizational focus – namely, broadening and building the movement of fast-food workers for $15 an-hour and a union, and redoubling our efforts in the struggle to avert climate catastrophe through global warming.
The convention was an impressive event showcasing the party’s depth of work throughout the movements for social and economic justice. Not only was it a uniquely diverse gathering – multi-racial, young, old, gay and straight – it was also a uniquely working class gathering.
As I mingled with contingents from across the country, the uniquely working class character of the convention became apparent. I was introduced to union leaders and officers, organizers and rank-and-file activists, grievance and bargaining representatives, fast food and home health care workers, among many others.
The array of grassroots working class leaders was truly impressive, signifying the party’s connection to and membership among the people on-the-ground doing the grunt work of building a movement.
I would even go so far as to argue that the working class, largely union based delegates and guests represented the thinking of tens of thousands – if not hundreds of thousands – of other working class activists and trade unionists in many of the unions now leading the charge against the global 1 percent.
Another unique quality of the 30th National Convention was the number of new members attending their first convention.
From Portland to Denver, from Orlando to Atlanta, from St. Louis to Detroit and New Haven to New York, new members attended. Their participation at the convention and going forward helps to insure the party’s continued leadership role in developing a new generation of activists and organizers ready to confront the challenges of tomorrow.
As thousands of new members apply to join the party every year, it is incumbent upon us to not only celebrate our proud 95-year history, but to develop, train and mentor the up-and-coming Party members so that they can lead us into the next 95 years.
Furthermore, a number of guests joined over the weekend, including some well-known leaders in the national fast-food movement.
Undoubtedly, this convention was a convention of grassroots movement leaders. It was a convention broad in scope, new in composition and transparent in deliberation.
In fact, the transparent deliberation and planning for this Convention included a broad swath of party members from across the country. In all, hundreds of members proposed workshops, worked in committees (on resolutions, the constitution, culture, and panels, etc.), stuffed letters into envelopes, volunteered at the Convention, contributed discussion documents and participated in the vibrant online pre-convention discussion period.
The 30th National Convention of the Communist Party, USA also elected a new National Committee, new national officers and a new National Chair, John Bachtell, all with the full confidence of the entire party.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the work and leadership of our former National Chair, Sam Webb, who stepped-down – along with other officers like Jarvis Tyner, Juan Lopez and others – at the convention to make room for a new generation of party leaders.
The courage and confidence that they have put in the entire party, the new NC and the new national officers is indeed humbling. We have big shoes to fill, as Sam, Jarvis and Juan all consistently and persuasively lead the charge for a more open, vibrant, youthful and grounded Communist Party of the 21st century.
Undoubtedly, the convention had some minor bumps along the way, as well as during the weekend of June 13-15. Some feel – and I agree – that we tried to do too much, that there wasn’t enough time to casually make new friends and reacquaint ourselves with old ones. And of course, we needed more coffee.
However, in its totality, the 30th National Convention of the Communist Party celebrated during its 95th Anniversary was a convention for the ages, working class in character, new and diverse in composition and transparent in deliberation.