Los Angeles honors and celebrates Communist Party’s 100th anniversary
Members of the Los Angeles Section of the Communist Party USA attend a rally in 1935. The party continues going strong today in Southern California. | People's World Archive

LOS ANGELES—The Southern California District of the Communist Party held its rousing regional celebration of the party’s centennial at its “Red House” on South St. Andrews Place, Sat. night, Sept. 21.

The evening featured music and spoken word contributions, a short history of the party delivered by the new L.A.-based co-chair of the CPUSA, Rossana Cambron, original and classic songs of the labor movement, a group singing of “The Internationale,” greetings from friendly organizations, a raffle and fund appeal, silent auction, and a tasty dinner prepared by specially invited Oaxacan chefs.

Ismael Parra offered his ballad “Socialism’s Gonna Rise” encouraging listeners to get out the vote in 2020 in a massive movement to advance democracy. Helpfully, he circulated copies of the chorus for audience members to sing along:

Grab your phone and tweet your neighbor,
Go to vote and text your friend.
Get a move on, don’t be lazy,
There’s a planet to defend.
There will be rejoicing, come election day,
When the people finally go to vote,
And the people have their say.

Ismael Parra performs his ballad, “Socialism’s Gonna Rise.” | Chauncey K. Robinson / PW

Uncle Ruthie, legendary KPFK radio host, singer, songwriter, and poet, sang her anthem “You Will Find Us,” written a few years ago and performed on such special occasions as a new party hymn. It also includes an uplifting chorus punctuated by a couple of snappy handclaps. For the first time published anywhere:

You will find us on the picket lines,
You will find us in the street—
You will find us at the protests where
The working people meet.
For the drumbeat of democracy
Grows stronger every day—
We’re the [clap] Communist Party of the USA!
We’re the [clap] Communist Party of the USA!

You will find us in the doorways
Where the homeless people sleep.
You will find us where the babies cry
And where the mothers weep.
Where the hungry wait in line for food
We stand with them and say—
We’re the [clap] Communist Party of the USA!
We’re the [clap] Communist Party of the USA!

Our name is honored through the world,
Embrace it! Yes, you can!
We work—we vote—we’re one hundred
Percent American.
No foreign power tells us
What to think—that’s why we say—
We’re the [clap] Communist Party of the USA!
We’re the [clap] Communist Party of the USA!

Where there’s music you will find us
Asking you to join the dance.
We are part of every chorus
As we sing “Give Peace a Chance!”
Our marching song is louder still
And we are here to stay!
We’re the [clap] Communist Party of the USA!
We’re the [clap] Communist Party of the USA!

Grab your phone and tweet your neighbor,
Go to vote and text your friend.
Get a move on, don’t be lazy,
There’s a planet to defend.
There will be rejoicing, come election day,
When the people finally go to vote,
And the people have their say.

Esteemed Salvadoran-American poet Dora Magaña read from her several published books. Particularly emotional was her tribute to the “Vieja guardia”—the Old Guard—revolutionaries of earlier decades who lit the way toward the liberation struggles of the 1960s to 1980s in which Magaña was an active part. Her poems scream out to be be made available in English!

Introduced by emcee Chauncey Robinson, an L.A. resident who is on the editorial staff of People’s World, Cambron remarked on the historic significance that the Communist Party now has a Mexican-American co-chair (along with Joe Sims, an African American). She quickly surveyed the decades of the party’s history, touching briefly on organizations the party set up, such as International Labor Defense and the American Committee for the Protection of Foreign Born, struggles to free imprisoned labor and people’s advocates such as Angela Davis, Rev. Ben Chavis, anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti, and the Scottsboro Nine, and the many movements the party led or participated in. The Communist Party, she underlined, was always integral to the broad people’s movements, never standing outside on the periphery.

In Southern California, the party fought for public housing in Chavez Ravine north of downtown L.A., which was leveled in the 1950s to make room for Dodger Stadium. Communists organized voter drives to elect the first African-American and Mexican-American city council members, county commissioners, and U.S. representatives. And Communists were instrumental in international solidarity movements opposing apartheid in South Africa, and supporting liberation struggles in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Communist Party Co-Chair Rossana Cambron addresses the Los Angeles celebration. | Chauncey K. Robinson / PW

“The best is yet to come,” Cambron promised. The CPUSA has fully embraced the Green New Deal and has committed its resources and members to realize the legislative and societal goals to save the planet from self-destruction. She spoke of the many local activities that members and friends of the party engage in, including the Pachamama garden, an art gallery, the annual Day of the Dead festival, activism on the health care front, with a Spanish-speaking party club in the lead on that, internet content production, a sewing class to recycle clothing into new wearables, and classes on Marxist theory in both English and Spanish.

On the subject of elections, Cambron emphasized that the CPUSA does not endorse candidates, but rather focuses on the issues the party cares about. “The question,” she explained, “is which candidate will create the most favorable climate for our movement to progress. It’s not an emotional decision, but a strategic one.”

The most important point she could leave with her audience (about 40 in attendance, several from the San Diego area) was really quite simple: “Build unity.” Focus on the greater long-term vision and overcome the individual and personal issues and biases that stand in the way of ever greater collective action. Needless to say, in the run-up to the 2020 election, there is nothing so important as this. Cambron illustrated her talk with a slide show of photos of important personalities and events in party history both nationally and locally.

Ismael Parra, Uncle Ruthie, and Eric Gordon at the Red House celebration. | Chauncey K. Robinson / PW

Greetings from other organizations followed, including Morena, the party of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) of El Salvador, and the local branch of the national secular Jewish organization Arbeter Ring/Workmen’s Circle.

Jeanette Charles served very capably as a bilingual translator, effortlessly (so it seemed!) rendering English into Spanish and Spanish into English for the multilingual audience.

Performer Anthony (Tony) Bucci sang several class-conscious songs, a couple of his own, one by Joe Hill, and another by Woody Guthrie (the evergreen “This Land is Your Land” with all the verses.)

The announced guest speaker, the Cuban lecturer Dr. Jourdy James Heredia, was unable to come to the United States in the immediate wake of the Trump administration’s expulsion of two Cuban delegates to the United Nations, but she sent a pair of short videos with greetings and appreciation to the CPUSA on its centennial, and a brief analysis of the current crisis Cuba and its mutually supportive state Venezuela are undergoing due to the U.S. blockade. Her theme called for heightened international solidarity.

Paul Roberson gave a moving, personal fundraising pitch that focused on his own path toward political enlightenment. His story could have been, adjusting details for time, place, and circumstances, the story of millions of others who have found in activism for socialism a meaningful search for justice and answers to the problems of life under capitalism.

Teresa del Carmen Gonzalez offered a presentation on Emma Tenayuca (1916-99), a Tejana activist woman who early on started organizing factory workers in pecan shelling, cigar making, and garment manufacture. She was a proud Communist, hounded out of San Antonio in the late 1930s for her militancy, who found her way to the San Francisco Bay Area and earned degrees in teaching. She later returned to Texas and concentrated on teaching immigrant children, one of what Gonzalez calls “the unsung heroes and heroines” on our movement.

The silent auction, organized and mounted by People’s World writer and editor Eric A. Gordon, featured donated items such as revolutionary prints from Vietnam, authentic Kachina dolls from the American Southwest, stuffed animals, books, and artwork. Over dinner, winners of the raffle won party pins and Marxist books. Animated conversations continued into the night.


CONTRIBUTOR

Special to People’s World
Special to People’s World

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.

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