CHICAGO — The Communist Party USA returns to its birthplace this week as 500 labor, peace, civil rights and community activists, and international guests converge here for the party’s 28th national convention, July 1-3.

The party was founded in Chicago 85 years ago. It emerged out of the labor and socialist ferment that swirled across the nation, rooted in working-class struggles like the Haymarket fight for the 8-hour day.

Today, party activists say, it’s especially appropriate that the CPUSA is back in Chicago, where the labor movement this year boldly “brought back” May Day — the international workers’ day. The convention will feature a slideshow on Chicago’s labor history and a tour of the city’s labor landmarks, presented by local labor historian Bill Adelman.

“This is a particularly great time to be going to a convention of the Communist Party,” says UAW member Armando Ramirez. “It’s a great time to be a Communist.”

Ramirez, a 27-year auto industry veteran, now lives in San Diego.

“Everything is beginning to turn around, not only nationally but here in California. We’re about to really slam Gov. Schwarzenegger,” Ramirez said, referring to the governor’s plummeting approval ratings, sparked by his pro-corporate assault on worker rights and benefits.

“All the things we fought for in last year’s election, all the things we said were in danger — now people see it’s true. People are ready to listen to new ideas. They are looking for solutions.”

Ramirez, who grew up in Chicago’s working-class “Back of the Yards” neighborhood, is heading back to his hometown fired up. He says, “It’s a good time to defeat Bush and Schwarzenegger and build our party.”

Libero Della Piana, the CPUSA’s communications director, noted that much had changed since the party’s last convention four years ago — “Sept. 11, the war in Afghanistan, now in Iraq, the Bush administration’s increased aggression.” But, he said, “it’s also a hopeful time. In the past few weeks, the Bush administration has been up against the ropes, and is having a hard time pushing its agenda. It’s the right time for our party to meet.”

He told the World 400 delegates were expected, coming from “Maine to Hawaii, Alaska to Florida.” In addition some 100 guests will attend, from movements in which the party is active across the U.S., and from communist and workers parties of dozen or more countries around the world. More than 80 Young Communist League delegates and guests will participate.

At an International Solidarity Night event, the international guests will tell of their struggles and experiences. It highlights a “unique” feature of the Communist Party USA, Della Piana said, “our international perspective and deep regard for movements around the world.” Representatives of the Iraqi Communist Party and the Communist Party of Vietnam are expected to spark particular interest, he said, because of their courageous, decades-long struggles on behalf of their countries’ working class and peoples.


Susan Webb
Susan Webb

Susan Webb is a retired co-editor of People's World. She has written on a range of topics both international - the Iraq war, World Social Forums in Brazil and India, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and controversy over the U.S. role in Okinawa - and domestic - including the meaning of socialism for Americans, attacks on Planned Parenthood, the U.S. as top weapons merchant, and more.