Getting the message out with the People’s Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo

 
August 6, 2002

Grassroots organizing: The Communist Party clubs and getting the message out with the People’s Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo

Report to National Committee / Conference on Clubs, CPUSA June 30, 2002 by Terrie Albano, PWW Associate Editor

The main challenge in giving this report is choosing what to focus on. It is very hard to decide the most important things. Although we had at least three discussions on this report and the role of the paper at this conference – one in the national board and two in the editorial board – it still is difficult. – I wonder why.

In earlier discussions, preparing for this conference, the editorial board met and outlined what we thought were some key questions.

We had three extensive discussions on the election 2002 coverage and have it on our weekly board agendas.

Clearly I can’t go into all these points. So let me focus on two: election coverage and extending our grassroots influence.

With the 2002 elections just 4 months away what kind of stories we write, and how widely they get circulated certainly can make a difference.

Every national newspaper in the country – from the NY Times to the Washington Post to the LA Times to USA Today has begun their election 2002 coverage. Each has their own class and social-oriented editorial line towards the issues and events that mark the landscape leading up to the elections and beyond. Yet many working class and democractic organizations are just starting or have not yet put the elections up front. It is uneven.

But the ultra-right ideologues and activists – and the worst sections of monopoly corporations –have the 2002 election on their agenda – everyday.

Although I think the recent leak that Karl Rove was using White House equipment for election work was not part of their communication plan, the Bush Administration is strategizing and utilizing every opportunity to make sure their message and policies are victorious this November.

One example is how the Christian Coalition and all their clones blasted the recent court decision on “under God”. They turned that into a call for the mid-term elections – and I quote – to put “god-fearing” conservative judges in federal posts.

Can we afford to be less single minded?

Given the terrain – the extremely dangerous times we live in what can the weekly publication of the Communist Party do to make a contribution in this titanic battle? How do we work to defeat the ultra-right candidates while strengthening the forces for political independence? And how through it all can we grow in our circulation, base of readers, prestige as well as broaden the contacts and membership for the Party clubs?

We have been running since April/May regular election stories – in various forms. Some are opinion pieces from progressive elected officials on important issues; some are stories on burning working class issues like TANF, prescription drugs, health care, civil liberties, racial profiling, military spending, budget cuts and public education. Some are articles about what various organizations are doing in preparation around the elections and some are articles about workers running for office. Some are action boxes on key legislation – from funding for Plan Colombia to stopping ultra-right judicial appointments. We hope these stories and election boxes will give every club and district material to utilize in their work and to reprint in various forms. We want to turn some things into PDF files so they are downloadable and can be reprinted for club use as flyers or doorhangers, etc. We certainly need more coverage and contributions from the field – so to speak. Our clubs are resources – like a network of stringers who can send in stories of important struggles and issues as they are happening.

But how else can the party extend its reach with the paper and individual articles?

In today’s world there is a tremendous class battle happening in the mass media. Grassroots media activism is a growing movement. The growing reality of monopoly corporate control and right wing domination of news and information is also a growing realization by many.

Other organizations understand that and welcome it. Ask Denise about the reaction at the NOW conference after representing herself as a PWW reporter – the newspaper of the Communist Party at a media activist workshop.

Based on our articles we have forged new coalition relations and deepened already existing ones. One example is Judith’s coverage of the Middle East. Both the Friendship of Reconciliation and the Arab American Anti- Discrimination Committee invited Judith to speak at their events and utilized our paper’s articles as their own.

When you build prestige of paper, you are building prestige of party. One fairly new party member and activist said any organization that can put out a paper like PWW/Mundo is the kind of organization I want to belong to.

I’m not going to talk about bundles or methods of mass distribution – suffice it to say – the club should collectively decide where and how papers get out. Whether it is weekly drops in neighborhoods, campuses and workplace sites or weekly distributions at the plant gate; subway stop or door-to door the club should take a hard look at its forces. It should also look at how other newspapers get distributed in its area. Bundle distributions are critical to public presence and influencing the mass thought patterns of the people in your specific area of work. And it shouldn’t be the responsibility of one person. The whole club should be part of the planning and execution of it.

I do want to spend a little time on building subscribers – which is the meat and potatoes of any publication. That is our loyal base. That is who we can call on to help organize events, actions, forums, who will be more likely to join the Party. This is the organizational intersection of how the paper and the party work to build each other. Because with subscribers, comes names, addresses and live bodies who are in our political orbit.

Ohio took an initiative to get their clubs to go over who in their contact lists, personal phone books and palm pilots should be getting the PWW/Mundo. They collected over 200 names, most of them activists in the labor and people’s movements and sent them trial subs. Followed by phone calls to try to turn these trials into full subs. I hope they speak more about their work with the paper.

Sub lists are available to every district so it is a basis for invitees to party events. One PWW reader in Chicago brought two young women to a Party recruiting meeting – one joined and is currently writing for paper.

I mentioned before that many organizations are growing in their media saavyness – from getting their message out to the corporate media, to building and joining in the anti-monopoly independent media movement. We too have to get much more modern and savvy – utilizing promotion and marketing ideas and tools, like every other publication and organization. One method to extend our influence – our politics – is through placement of individual articles. Including in local newspapers and organization’s newsletters

In order for clubs to reach out and make a breakthrough on this front, you can plan a story that has legs, so to speak. With your ear to the ground and a bit of luck a club can grab hold of a struggle story, write it and most importantly plan some follow-up around it.

Whether through special distributions of that issue of the paper or other methods, a well-written story can go far beyond our readership.

For ex in a strike at a laundry of mostly Mexican immigrant women, PWW/Mundo articles were used as part of the solidarity build-up and eventual victory, including in press packets.

Similar stories can be given about articles on the steel struggles, fight against the war on terrorism, health care and prescription drug fights, coverage of other organization’s events from NOW to Black Radical Congress to Cuba solidarity groups get put on list serves and become part of the ideological and political mix.

Yesterday Jarvis mentioned that NY defeated Edison. One part of that movement was the use of the paper; which was distributed with relevant articles at parent meetings, in the neighborhoods of the schools targeted for takeover. Articles were faxed to school board members, and at one store, across the street from a targeted school, the owner liked one anti- privatization article so much he turned it into a poster for their window. The PWW/Mundo was a weapon for the people involved in that struggle.

The front page story on the longshore solidarity rally by Evelina was distributed via email by a couple of LA groups – the LA IMC and teamsters listservs to help mobilize for that waterfront rally. There our article helped to mobilize for an event.

The PWW/Mundo is a legitimate news source and while we may not see it that way – the BBC does. They contacted us about a story they saw on our website and said they search our site for story leads all the time.

A word on Mundo. It is of tremendous, national significance that we produce a bi-lingual paper every week. There are not too many progressive publications that can claim that. We have to continually look at fresh and special ways to build Mundo, because it will help build our influence and membership among the Mexican American, Puerto Rican and other Latino communities.

The Latino vote, immigrant rights, the labor movement, breaking news, events from Latin America South America and the Caribbean are major components to our national body politic and the class struggle. Mundo – like the other side of the paper – can and is making a significant contribution to these struggles. More and more clubs, districts and other collectives of the Party are utilizing Mundo in their everyday work. So much so that we need to find out from Prompt Press whether or not some bundles of the paper can be folded with the Mundo side up. Our ability to put out – now three pages of Mundo – up from two – is really an understated triumph, propelled by the collective knowledge and experience of how important and critical to class unity it is to have a bi-lingual paper. The collective approach and experience around Mundo is growing and needs to grow more. The whole editorial board is committed to making Mundo part of the Spanish-language resource for the working class and democratic forces. We hope all collectives, especially those clubs rooted in Spanish- language communities, develop plans for the circulation and content development for Mundo. We need more Mundo-only writers.

We have some volunteers to do Spanish to English translation for those stories that first come in as Spanish so the English side will also carry them.

Currently a Mundo web site is under development and the better use of photos for Mundo in the print edition should be a welcome addition.

So with utilizing both sides of the paper, individual articles, the clubs can bring around new contacts, activists and extend its reach and influence in the 2002 elections. We can make a difference.

The PWW/Mundo is at the service of the movement for social progress and socialism – it can help to build coalitions, outreach and popularly communicate our message working class unity and militant mass struggle. We need to build our name recognition as a paper with important articles that people, labor and community leaders and activists, will find helpful in their work, or just find interesting. Articles that they will use – hang up on their bulletin board, for example.

It’s the Communist Party’s big tent – publishing the many voices from the multi-racial working class and democratic movements, including and especially, the Communist Party’s. The main thing about making the paper better is collective input from collective experience. I look forward to hearing your experiences.

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