NEW YORK – Communist activists gathered here Oct. 20-21 for the first National Committee meeting since the body’s election at the CPUSA’s convention in early July.

Calling for a moment of silence on behalf of the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, Jarvis Tyner, CPUSA executive vice chairman, said at the meeting’s opening that the terrorist act was an attack on the working class of the world.

CPUSA National Chairman Sam Webb gave an opening report that was followed by two days of discussion from the floor, punctuated by reports on the economy, the U.N. conference on racism, defense of the Charleston Five, peace and solidarity campaigns and CPUSA structure and organization proposals.

In his report, Webb emphasized the dangers and hypocrisy of the Bush administration’s ‘war on terrorism.’ He called Bush’s speech projecting a broader war ‘saber-rattling’ with ‘nothing statesmen nor sober-minded about it.’ Webb, issuing an urgent call to the Party, said that stopping the ultraright’s war drive is an historical, defining moment for the working class and the peoples of the world.

Webb said support for Bush’s bombing and his ‘war on terrorism’ is soft among the American people. He also said that a broad worldwide front against terrorism and war can be built.

Many will enter the struggle for peace through different ‘portals,’ Webb said. These include the struggles for civil liberties and immigrant rights, the fight against racial profiling and the struggles around the economic crisis and social spending, stopping the recent ‘corporate looting spree.’

Scott Marshall, chairman of the CPUSA’s Labor Commission, outlined the need to link the economic struggle to the struggle for peace. This link, he said, is key to winning a majority against the war.

Speaking from the floor, national committee members highlighted how both Bush’s war in Afghanistan and terrorism affect social programs at home, foster an atmosphere that encourages racist and anti-immigrant attacks, result in a huge increase in layoffs and unemployment and an overall curtailing of civil liberties and democratic rights.

Heavy emphasis was placed on the battles in Congress and not surrendering the legislative agenda to Bush and the ultraright.

Joelle Fishman, chairwoman of the CPUSA’s political action commission, said there are heroines and heroes in Congress not being reported on by the media and the legislative arena is key to a national fightback.

Arnold Becchetti, an NC member and a founder of Veterans for Peace, read a recent statement by that organization and spoke about carrying the American flag in peace demonstrations. A veteran of the Vietnam War spoke about not ceding America’s national symbols to the ultraright.

Many from Southern California spoke about the dramatic increase in layoffs, especially among flight attendants, hotel, restaurant and airport workers, many of whom are Mexican and Latino. Because of the 1996 welfare laws, legal residents, like the majority of these workers, are ineligible for food stamps. Over 30,000 pounds of food has been given out because of the layoffs caused by Sept. 11.

Evelina Alarcon, a CPUSA vice chairwoman, reported on the fight to Free the Charleston Five. The NC greeted Alarcon’s announcement that the political pressure on South Carolina’s Republican Attorney General Charles Condon to drop the charges resulted in two critical victories: Condon’s withdrawal of his office from the case, which is now assigned to a local prosecutor, and the release of the Charleston Five from house arrest (See article page 3).

Alarcon said that the next major event in the fight to free the five is the international day of action on November 14, the first day of the trial proceedings.

Joe Sims, editor of Political Affairs, reported on the U.N. World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, which he attended. His report emphasized the shameful absence of the Bush administration from the conference. Sims said the conference underlined the ‘problem of the color line on a world scale since the setbacks to socialism and the new stage of globalization.’

Sims was in South Africa on Sept. 11; he reported on the universal condemnation of the atrocity. The South African Communist Party, Sims said, called for a worldwide demonstration for peace and against terrorism.

Given the new dangers from the ultraright’s drive for more violence, war and terrorism much attention was given to the issue of tactics to build a mass, multiracial, united peace movement capable to stop the Bush agenda.

Elena Mora, national organization secretary, highlighted a thought-provoking part of Webb’s report that dealt with ultra-left and sectarian tactics. Mora said it was a call to ‘shed sectarian ways’ and develop tactics to influence millions. After all, she said, the left doesn’t make history, the working class does.