Report of Constitution Committee on proposed changes to draft

 
BY: Constitution Committee| June 10, 2014

Many suggestions were put forward for changes to the draft constitution. The committee considered all comments from the on line discussion, National Committee discussion, phone conferences and the google hangout. Below is a summary of the comments and the committee’s response.

You can also read the full text of the final draft of the proposed new constitution. The current constitution remains in effect until amended or replaced.

Preamble

The most substantial change from the original proposal is in the preamble. Comrades overwhelmingly called for a shorter, more concise preamble, which the Committee offers. Many, including committee members, will feel that additional or different concepts should be in the preamble, or that ideas should be expressed differently. We urge that comrades use other forums and publications for continued discussion.

Article II – principles of organization sections 1 and 3

Comment:

“[in the new draft] Democratic centralism has now been delegated to just an archaic historical term.”

Comment:

On comment urged the inclusion of the old language in Article II.5 (“The principle of democratic centralism includes the obligation of all members and leaders to fulfill the decisions arrived at by the majority.”)

Committee response: Instead of just declaring that our principles of organization is democratic centralism, the new draft describes the principles, asserts that many organizations use these principles, and gives the historic name. The new wording in section 3 (corresponding to II.5 in the old constitution) is: “Members who disagree with a decision are expected to refrain from organizing against or publicly undermining the decision.” This corresponds with actual practice in the Party, and makes sense in a period when there is wide ranging discussion on principles, strategy and tactics. For these reasons the Constitution Committee kept the language of the draft.

Article III Section 1

Comment:

One comment proposed dropping the age requirement.

Committee response:

Our proposed draft allows exceptions to be made when warranted. The Committee kept the 18-year age requirement.

Article III Section 2  

Question from Google hangout:

How does the draft address the reality that so many of our members are not in traditionally organized clubs, but we relate to online and cyberspace? How do you anticipate this changing going forward?

Committee response:

In our draft, Article III section 2 states: “For applicants from areas where no organization is in place, the National Committee shall set up appropriate forms for welcoming and incorporating new members.” This gives the necessary flexibility to experiment and find the best forms, without locking in any one approach at this time.

Article III Section 4

Comments:

There were several comments to the effect that the requirement that members “strive to improve their political knowledge” is inadequate. At least two comments specifically objected to removing the requirement to improve “understanding of Marxism-Leninism.”

Committee response:

The Committee agreed we should define what we mean by political knowledge. “Political knowledge” was replaced by “scientific socialism.” Compromise language citing the important role of Marx, Engels and Lenin is included in the preamble.

Article III Section 5

Comment:

A proposal was made to change the language referring to “African-American, Mexican-American, Caribbean, Central and South American, Native American, Middle Eastern, Central, South and East Asian and Pacific Islanders, and anyone subject to discriminatory treatment based on race, religion, nationality or color.”

Committee response:

The Committee agreed with the proposal and adopted the new language.

Article IV Section 2 and Article V Section 4

Comment:  

The suggestion was made that it should not be necessary for a request to be made in order to have a secret ballot elections.

Committee response:

The committee agreed. At state and club levels, most elections are by acclamation/consensus, but if there are multiple nominations, members should not be put in the position of having to request a secret ballot – it should be automatic.

So the Committee substituted the wording “for any contested position” in place of “if any member requests it.”

Article VII Section 5

Question from Google Hangout:

What is covered by “major policy change?”

Committee response:

The Committee felt that a more refined definition is beyond the scope of the constitution, and will have to be decided on a case-by-case basis by the National Committee.

Article VIII Section 2

Comment:

There was concern about the first paragraph of Section 2 “Assistance should be given to help comrades to overcome weaknesses and shortcomings as much as possible,” and a query about who should render assistance.

Committee response:

The first paragraph provides a framework for the rest of the section, which describes causes for action, and actions that can be taken if members violate basic Party principles. The Constitution Committee felt that this section is sufficiently clear as is.

Article VIII

Comment:

Concern was expressed that there should be an appeal mechanism for people who are removed from the Party.

Committee response:

The language in the proposed Article VIII provides an appeal process for termination of membership.

Article XI

Comment:

One comment argues in favor of having dues set by the National Convention (as the 2001 Constitution provides) rather than the National Committee (as the proposed draft provides).

Committee response:

The Constitution Committee felt that the National Committee has the time and is in a better position to study and evaluate the dues level and the best procedures for processing and dues.

Comments:

Several comments related to the relationship between dues and membership. In the existing (2001) constitution, dues are required, and those in arrears are suspended and dropped from membership after a period of time. The new draft constitution lists dues amongst the responsibilities of membership, but drops automatic action when dues are not maintained. Concerns raised in comments included: 1) Without dues, how can you accurately determine membership? 2) Given the flexible measures that are/should be taken to help members pay dues, such payment reflects the minimum measure of commitment for a member.

Committee response:

The language in the draft constitution reflects extensive discussion within the constitution committee, based on actual real-life experience in a variety of districts. We encourage dues payment through political persuasion rather than administrative means. Dues are not separate from political activity and working in mass movement –  all are requirements of membership. However, many people do not join as fully developed Communists, but develop political and financial commitment over time. This corresponds with experience in a number of countries with mass Communist Parties, where regular dues collection from rank-and-file members can be irregular. Especially in this period of experimentation with various forms of organization and integrating new members, measuring membership is more complex than simply counting dues. We felt the national leadership should have the responsibility and the flexibility to develop and adjust these measures. For all these reasons the Constitution Committee agreed to keep the language of the draft.


The views and opinions expressed in the Convention Discussion are those of the author alone. The Communist Party is publishing these views as a service to encourage discussion and debate. Those views do not necessarily reflect the views of the Communist Party, its leading bodies or staff members. The CPUSA Constitution, Program, and all its existing policies remain in effect during the Convention discussion period and during the Convention.

For details about the convention, visit the Convention homepage
To contribute to the discussion, visit the Convention Discussion webpage

CONVENTION DISCUSSION 
30th National Convention, Communist Party USA
Chicago | June 13-15, 2014

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