CPUSA - Communist Party USA

06/19/2024 | News release | Distributed by Public on 06/19/2024 15:24

Closing remarks, 32nd National Convention CPUSA

Closing remarks to the 32nd National Convention of the Communist Party USA
Presented by Rossana Cambron, Co-Chair, CPUSA

For how many people here is this is your first convention? This is my first summary, so please bear with me because my knees are a bit wobbly.

I hope that for all of you this convention has been a growing experience, that you made new friends and felt the energy of our Party across the country.

I first want to thank the entire collective that put this convention together, from the various committees that oversaw the pre-convention tasks to those who worked hard during the convention to keep it rolling along without any glitches or problems. I especially want to thank Daniel, Lorri, and Bobbie, who went that extra mile for us during these past few days.

Joe's remarks in the Main Report were right on target, addressing many of the concerns expressed by our membership during the pre-convention discussion. They should be studied and discussed in your clubs; give them a thorough read. Why? Because the report is a blueprint for moving forward and a great example of how to look at the contemporary world and struggles through a Marxist-Leninist lens.

He stressed several essential points, some which I would like to highlight here:

  • Collectivity is our superpower; individualism breaks up any collective-it is what splits the efforts of a group. Don't cross the picket line! Remember, we are all on the same side.
  • The importance of building a community both inside and outside of the Party.
  • Organize, organize, organize. Reading Marxism in a book alone is not going to bring change; you have to be involved in your community and mass organizations. Put what you learn into practice.
  • Think strategically. We are fighting for space to advance the struggle-whether it's in the elections or in other settings. I ask you to think about the struggle in terms of looking for ways to move ahead in a forest full of thick vines that prevents forward movement vs. a thinner forest with less vines to cut down and a clearer path. Which setting do we want to be operating in?
  • The Communist Plus-analyze what our special contribution is, always think about what we can add to the movements we're involved in that no one else can bring to the table.
  • Run Party candidates for public office.

Elections are about more than just the Presidential and Congressional votes. Get involved in your local elections to prevent more fascists from taking control of our lives. Stop them from getting onto city councils, school boards, county boards, and other bodies. The recent ruling by a judge granting an injunction to stop UAW Local 4811's members at the University of California from participating in a stand-up strike to demand better working conditions tells us we need to stop fascist judges from getting elected, as well.

A comrade recently reminded us of a union saying: "What you win on the shop floor or in your contract, the boss can take away in the legislature." This expresses the totality of the class struggle - it's economic, it's political, it's legal, it's social.

Many times, I have been asked by our newer members, how do we best protect ourselves and our unions and organizations? My response is always: Build a community through your activism; that's your best defense. We have many examples where the people have stepped up to defend someone even if they do not agree with their positions, but they believe they have a right to them and are willing to offer support whenever they feel connected.

A good example of this is the current president of Mexico, AMLO, who has no bodyguards, travels on commercial airlines, and lives in his own home, not in the palace, which he turned into a museum. Although he has faced many threats, the people of Mexico have protected him; he built a community around himself.

Communist plus

We bring a plus to all that we do by being honest, working to achieve unity in meetings, setting aside our egos, and fighting for what is best for the working class.

  • The Communist Plus means explaining issues that go beyond reforms. Because of our Marxist training, we can make the connection between issues.
  • It means building relationships beyond our ranks, because that's vital to developing class consciousness outside of our left circles.
  • The Communist Plus is like dropping the mic because you know you have added value to the conversation. It's a value that is not driven by ego or some arrogant notion that we are self-appointed vanguard but by an analysis of the current situation and figuring out collectively what is best for the whole working class.
  • Comrade Gus Hall once said that for Communists, the "we" is more important the "me."

How have we survived as a party?

  • Like the People's World, which made it through the McCarthy and Red Scare period thanks to the help of its supporters, we too survived that time by building a community around ourselves. The fact is, we were able to do that because we put the interests of the working class and democracy first, and our allies and friends could see that. Many members have come and gone in the Party over the years, but even though they left, the lessons they learned have never left them. They have applied it in their other struggles, and many of them are still a part of the community we have around the Party.
  • We have also adapted to keep up with the times as they changed. Darwin concluded that it is the species that is most adaptable to change that survives, not just the "fittest." We have our theoretical and ideological foundations that keep us strong, but we should never be dogmatic or sectarian when conditions change.
  • It is through the practice of criticism and self-criticism that we have been able to determine what are the key ways that we need to adapt in a given situation.

How do we build mass movements?

  • One step at a time, by listening and contributing in a constructive way. And we have to do it even in the periods between upsurges.
  • Had we built strong peace organizations and movements in our communities before Gaza, for instance, the fight for a ceasefire might have developed faster and been more successful. These are the kind of lessons we have to always be looking to learn.
  • Keep in mind also that every movement or group we become a part of as individuals does not necessarily have to be directly political. There are other forms, such as joining a running group, book club, knitting group, having video game buddies, etc. These also are organizing forms that build relationships and can be called upon to step up in unique ways when the times demand it. Remember, people become politicized in so many different ways and often at unexpected moments. My niece ran the L.A. marathon holding a Palestinian flag; that was her way of bringing the different aspects of her life and activism together. What ways will each of us do that?
  • Let's commit to building mass movements in whatever forms we can find, to reach outside of our circles, and to anchor ourselves deeper into the working class.

In your clubs, you should hold discussions on how you can collectively contribute to building outward from your current activities to other groups and movements, whether national in scope or local. Ask, what are the concerns motivating people who are not already participating? What links can be made to other issues, such as poverty, student debt, the war economy, etc.?

Party discipline

We need to strive to be a disciplined Party. That doesn't mean a Party membership that just follows orders from the top-down. We need to think of discipline in terms of self-discipline.

  • Social media posts by individual members and clubs should be constructive, not driven by a pursuit of likes or with the goal of becoming online personalities or shallow influencers. Build a following based on constructive leadership, not petty attacks or negativity.
  • Work collectively; this takes practice, and we need to help each other because we've only been taught by capitalist society to think individually.
  • Leave your ego at home and check it frequently. Egoism is another capitalist flaw implanted in us all.
  • Continue to study, but go out and do something with what you read, like I said earlier. Remember comrades, it is not necessarily the person who has read all of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and countless others has all the answers or is the only smart one. The smart ones are those who are out in the community applying the science; that takes a great deal of smarts and skill. Marxism-Leninism is both art and science-organize and study. Don't forget, we need both theory and practice.
  • Be honest and respectful toward comrades; this goes a long way in showing that you truly stand for working together to build a better society for all.
  • If you are against racism, then check your actions. Racism is not as obvious as a sign that says "No people of color can come in." It might be as subtle as having side discussions when people of color are speaking or making a point. It can take the form of being dismissive of ideas without even seriously thinking or considering them. On the other hand, agreeing with whatever a person of color says just because they are of color is patronizing and not helpful or authentic.
  • How you make people feel makes a great difference as to whether they will follow you or even hear what you have to say.
  • Everyone in the Party may agree with the concept of democratic centralism, but when it comes to following it, that is sometimes a different story. Democratic centralism is essential to our success as a Party of and for the working class. It takes practice; it's not automatic just because we declare a commitment to it. Here again, we have to continually practice and help each other, not just demonize someone if they slip up.

Let me make a special point when it comes to Party discipline: You begin to lose your way when you attack the Party publicly.

If you really truly have the best interests of the Party at heart, you will discuss issues and concerns in Party collectives. You will not just go airing them on social media for the whole world.

This does not mean that we can't have differences of opinion, but when you make those differences public and in a destructive manner, that becomes a different agenda.

In the Communist Party, we have to respect one another and our organization as a whole. So, rely on the established channels for collective discussion and review.

Proletarian internationalism

Comrades, we are a party of internationalism; we respect all our fraternal parties, just as they have always respected us. Throughout the decades, we U.S. communists have never been in a situation where other communists have walked out on us - not the Vietnamese, not the Cubans, not the Iraqis, no one - even though U.S. imperialist policy might have given some of them good reason to want to.

They did not walk out on us because they were motivated by proletarian internationalism, and they did not equate us with the actions of our government.

But on Saturday, during Comrade Ofer Cassif's remarks, a number of people on the floor of our convention did just that - got up and walked out. Worse, they bragged about it on social media.

You should know comrades, that the Israeli Communist Party is predominately Palestinian and Arab, who make up 30% of the population in Israel. When you walk out on their representative, you are walking out on both the Arab and Jewish working class. You are disrespecting our invited guest and our whole international Communist movement.

Comrades need to think about how to be critical without being destructive:

  • Tone and words used are key when we have a disagreement or criticism.
  • We must think how to disagree, how to criticize, and how to be sensitive, how to actively listen and, most importantly, how to be constructive.
  • How you comment should be aimed at creating and maintaining a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. Always keep in mind that we are on the same side and want the same things. As one of our panel chairs said during the convention, "The enemy is outside this room, not inside."

Cadre development

Cadre development should be a part of our next steps, along with forming a disciplined party. Here, I want to paraphrase Che Guevara on his definition of cadre :

"A cadre is an individual of ideological and administrative discipline, someone who knows and practices democratic centralism and who knows how to evaluate the existing contradictions in this method and to utilize fully its many facets. It is someone who knows how to practice the principle of collective discussion and take responsibility. In situations where loyalty is tested, these are the people whose physical and moral courage has developed ideologically in such a way that they are always willing to confront any conflict and put aside their individual ego for the revolution. Also, they are an individual capable of self-analysis, which enables them to make the necessary decisions and to exercise creative initiative in such a manner that it won't conflict with discipline."

Developing the cadre we need - the leaders we need - is a big challenge. Here, I call on seasoned members to step up and be available to mentor new clubs and young emerging leaders. We have many new members, and we need your help.

Looking ahead

As we conclude this convention and leave Chicago to go back to our clubs and districts all across the country, we must go forward together, committed to putting the working class and its struggles front and center in our work.

We have to be serious about genuinely taking care of each other and not turning on one another. We have to strive to be disciplined, comrades, because this is the key to building a mass Party. It is the key to building the mass movement that will someday demand a new system - a socialist system that puts people before profits.

I, for one, will be going home feeling very optimistic about our Party's future. As our comrade from Chile, Paul Hammer, said to me, "When there are youth present, the Party has a future." Looking around this hall, I can see that the youth are present, so we have every reason to feel confident about the years ahead.

Match that up with what our comrades from Portugal have always said: "The future has a party." In this country, we know that the future also has a party-and that party is the Communist Party USA!

Forward together!

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