Communist meet heats up Chicago

CHICAGO – “Everywhere you go someone is starting a new anti-war movement,” reported retired teacher and Philadelphia Communist Party (CPUSA) leader Debbie Bell about the upsurge of the labor movement in her hometown.

Bell and others responded to in-depth reports by CPUSA Vice Chairs Scott Marshall and Judith Le Blanc on labor and the burgeoning peace movement at an expanded meeting last weekend of the CPUSA National Board. The meeting on Chicago’s South Side proceeded with a serious, but optimistic tone, despite continual interruptions to bring in more chairs, as a steady stream of participants arriving from across the country stepped out of the arctic air into a steamy jam-packed meeting room.

Speakers were optimistic because of their experiences in recent class battles and the growing unity of labor and people’s movements.

“The contract struggle of the transit workers in New York won major victories!” stated a transit union member.

“Using street heat tactics, all of labor worked to back one candidate Raul Grijalva, in Tucson,” an Arizona AFSCME activist said. “And we won!” she added.

The crowd roared their approval when a delegate from Gary, Indiana appealed to the crowd to overlook her last name and hear her message. “The consensus of the rank and file is that it’s all about oil,” declared SEIU member, Alice Bush. “Labor group says war unjustified,” proclaimed the front page headline of the Gary Post Tribune she displayed, reporting on the recent action of the Northwest Indiana Federation of Labor in passing an anti-war resolution.

Marshall, chair of the CPUSA labor commission, called for a focus on “issues we can really make a difference on – peace, health care, the economy” and emphasized that new labor developments for peace were not limited to the leadership but were also displayed in a growing rank and file upsurge.

Le Blanc, a member of the CPUSA peace and solidarity commission, said the list of international unions taking positions against war on Iraq had two new additions, the Communications Workers of America and United Farm Workers. They join the National Council of Churches, with 140,000 congregations, MoveOn.org, over 40 U.S. cities, the Catholic Church and scores of labor, civil rights and other faith based organizations in opposing a unilateral, first-strike war against Iraq.

Le Blanc also pointed to an upsurge of Gulf war veterans and military families against this war as well as the establishment of United for Peace, a mainstream peace coalition.

“On Feb. 15 we will be in the streets, along with millions around the world to show that the American people are taking a stand against the war. Now we have to move from getting resolutions passed to getting buses on the highway to New York,” Le Blanc said.

Adan Jesus Marin, a newly elected national co-ordinator of the Young Communist League, told the crowd about the growing support for a March 5 student strike against the war, “It’s hard to find a youth movement not against the war. We know thousands of youth will go to New York and San Francisco on Feb 15 and come back to organize a student strike on March 5.”

Rookie Perna, attending the meeting from Philadelphia, urged the crowd to look for red balloons in New York, “That’s where Peoples Weekly World/

Nuestro Mundo supporters can come to pick up papers for distribution to the protesters,” she said.

“We need slogans that allow the broadest possible group to participate, mobilizing from Minnesota to Calais, Maine,” said Sam Webb, CPUA national chairman, pointing out that Calais is the nation’s easternmost point. “We need to call for no unilateral action. Let the inspections work!”

The author can be reached at rwood@pww.org