30th National Convention: closing remarks

BY:John Bachtell| August 6, 2014
30th National Convention: closing remarks


I want to thank Sam Webb for his kind and generous remarks. He’s a great comrade and dear friend. But I’ll say more in a few minutes.

Let me begin by expressing how humbled I am by the confidence the Party has shown in me to assume this responsibility.

And I think I speak for the rest of the officers and the new national committee, about the confidence shown in us collectively.

Sam has set a very high bar as national chair, and I can only strive to emulate the modesty, leadership style, and gusto with which he has gone about the job.

The one thing that gives me encouragement is the knowledge we have a great collective leadership, officers and national committee.

None of us, least of all me, take this responsibility lightly.

I can only promise straight up hard work each day to validate that trust, adherence to a collective style of work and to fight for the policies we have collectively shaped.

We will endeavor to grow as a collective, politically, theoretically, ideologically, to recognize our mistakes, of which there will be plenty, and overcome them.

And we’ll give it our all.

I have so much respect for the new NC and new national officers and the new national committee.

Each one brings commitment, political depth, mass political relationships, varied experience and a unique skill set.

Well, this wonderful gathering is coming to a close. At these moments, one always feels mixed emotions. There’s a touch of sadness that it has ended, but overwhelmingly a sense of happiness over a great accomplishment. The convention represented months of extraordinarily hard work by scores of comrades.

It was imbued from start to finish with great politics and experiences.

In many ways it is a model for our work, for its experimentation, use of digital tools, high level of collectivity and inclusive nature.

It was the first convention to extensively live stream sessions, some of which the public was welcome to attend.

We also had some great media coverage this weekend, including CPSAN, documentarians, photographers, the Chicago Tribune, etc.

We solicited workshop proposals and got 60 from Facebook as well as from members across the country.

The convention itself and the discussions leading up to it promoted an impressive and unprecedented level of transparency.

Each of you made important contributions starting with your participation in the scores of discussions, including teleconferences and Google Hangouts and thoughtful pieces many of you wrote.

Something exciting and special always happens when communists gather.

A wonderful aspect are large number of new members present, who in a very short time come into leadership in districts, clubs, and collectives.

And I’d like to especially congratulate the new members who have joined this weekend!

All of you bring fresh energy, new ways of doing things, boldness, creativity, connection to struggles, and understand the power of social media.

We are counting on you. Keep asserting yourselves, speak up, keep developing theoretically and keep drawing from our collective experience.

We leave with a high level of unity around the main themes of the convention: supporting a mass labor movement, especially in the struggle for dignity and a living wage for low wage workers around; confronting the planetary emergency brought on by greenhouse gas accumulation and a fossil fuel based energy system, stepping up the fight against racism and for immigrant rights and unity of our class.

And for building the Party and YCL and more fully utilize one of the greatest tools in our struggle, the People’s World.

We also have unity on the broad policy to defeat the ultra right and a commitment to defeat the ultra right in the 2014 elections. It was very special to have elected officials participating in our convention.

We must become “organizing agents”, at the center of these struggles, hands on leadership at the grassroots.

Naturally there will be things we don’t have total agreement on. And that’s okay.

We must agree to continue to discuss whatever differences we have, let new experiences inform our deliberations, and not let differences be an excuse for inaction.

There is nothing more precious than the unity of the Party and every one of us has a responsibility to ensure it.

Our discussions should be held in an atmosphere that is conducive to encouraging people to think more deeply without lines being drawn or labels affixed.

The process of change in the Party must continue since reality is ever changing. We have to continue to adapt ourselves to the new realities. Change is never easy. I speak from experience.

We are rooted in American revolutionary traditions, in the struggle of our multi-racial working class and people. Our aim continues to be a modern Party of 21st century socialism. And we must always have an eye toward innovation and use history as a guide.

Always adapting to the mass communication revolution, adopting new and innovative methods of organizing.

We’ve made strides, but we have a long way to go to engage with millions of Americans, including sharing our vision of socialism and how we see getting there.

That challenge is growing because of the large numbers of Americans who believe in socialism – Rick Nagin estimated more than 60 million and the challenge to build a alliance of left and socialist organizations.

This process is exciting, creative and liberating.

Now for some thank yous.

We want to give a shout out to everyone who made this possible: to the amazing volunteer crew at the Unity Center, Michelle, Michelle, Linda, Maria, Josie, Lou, Keri, Noah and Mack.

And Eric Blumrich and Xian Olavarria for the great graphic designs.

The convention organizing committee: Libero, Joe, Judith, Tony, Rossana, Roberta, Joelle, Earchiel and Elena who worked with this day and night for the past 6 months.

To Jenn, Esther, Patrick, Melissa and Jillian for organizing a smooth registration and housing process.

To the tech crew – Libero, Earchiel, and Benny.

To the interpreters for an unbelievable job – Susan, Kyle, Sijisfredo, Jon-tel and Mariana.

To Tim and Laura for organizing the superb cultural program.

To Terrie and Andi for the amazing slide show from our archives.

To Emile, Sue and John L., for organizing a warm welcome to our international guests.

And everyone who worked on the Agenda, Fundraising, Resolutions, Media committees – there are too many to name.

The workers at University of Illinois at Chicago and the various unions representing them: Mark and IBEW Local 134, SEIU 73 food service workers, Teamsters Local 773 bus drivers.

And special thanks to the folks at UIC Conference Services for working with us daily.

I’m sure I forgot some comrades and for that I apologize.

Last but not least, a very special thank you to our international guests. You have brought something very unique and special to our convention and we treasure your participation. You remind us that in today’s world, with huge global challenges beginning with climate change and inequality, the solutions lie in global unity of the working class, and greater unity of the communist movement.

I’d like to conclude by making some special remarks about a few dear comrades.

First, I think we should bid farewell to Rev. Tim Yeager who is moving to London with his wife Caroline. Tim is a long time NC member, wonderful comrade, a great friend, a nationally known labor leader, and a pastor his small parish on the West Side will surely miss. As chair of the religious commission, Tim broke new ground as a leading communist and person of faith. Our loss is the Communist Party of Britain’s gain.

Now I’d like to say a few words about Sam, Jarvis, Juan, Scotty and Esther. While they may be stepping aside as officers they are not stepping on or stepping out. Instead they will be stepping up to new responsibilities.

It may be the end of one leadership role, but the beginning of another – continuing a lifetime of creative contributions.

We always like to say, join the Communist Party and live a long and interesting life.

They have decades of leadership among them. They are a wealth of political wisdom and experience.

Esther has been in national leadership for over 40 years most recently as co-chair of the Membership Committee.

She has been one of the pioneers of our work with the thousands of new members who have joined online – no doubt many of you received your first call from Esther.

She’s going to continue to make contributions with helping rebuild the New York district and organizing in the South.

Scotty couldn’t be here this weekend and we’ve missed his presence. He has been a chair of the Labor Commission, a leader of the Steelworker retirees, and led our work during great change in the labor movement.

Juan marched in Selma during the Civil Rights movement, was editor of Voz del Pueblo, is the longtime district organizer for Northern California and has helped rebuild the Party throughout the western states.

Juan also an accomplished writer, and has made important political and ideological contributions on a range of issues including politics, the labor movement, immigration reform and the environment.

Jarvis Tyner has been a Party leader since the early 1960s, first as chair of the DuBois clubs, and later the Young Workers Liberation League; he served as chair of the NY district and then executive vice chair.

Jarvis was CPUSA vice presidential candidate in 1972 and 1976 and has made numerous contributions in the political action and African American Equality Commissions.

Jarvis is forever young and has mentored many young members. I’ve personally enjoyed working with him over the past few years building the Party work among youth.

These outstanding sons and daughters of the working class came into the movement during the upsurge of the 1960s, were shaped by the anti-war and civil rights movements.

And they have given the Party leadership through the difficult years of the collapse of socialism and especially post 911, the rise of the right danger and most recent economic crisis, but also through the growth of the labor led people’s movement.

They have done so while shepherding wide ranging changes in our Party, the creative adaptation of Marxism, development of our strategic line and broad flexible tactics, embracing the digital revolution and all its ramifications for organization.

It’s the leader of our collective that has driven this process – and that’s Sam Webb. He has been engaged in decades of creative application of Marxism, questioning old and out dated ideas, methods and organizational culture.

He has made numerous groundbreaking and enduring political and ideological contributions whose worth will grow in time.

He has driven the process of modernization and innovation.

I believe his enduring legacy will be challenging dogma, making us think and question more deeply and more flexibly; creatively applying Marxism to new realities, continuing to root our Party in the American revolutionary tradition, and our multi-racial working class and people.

And doing all this with patience, good cheer and in a modest and collective way.

These comrades are not leaving leadership. They will continue to play leading roles as members of the National Committee. Their experience will inform and energize new areas of work.

So let’s celebrate these comrades, cherish and hold dear their contributions. They have enriched us all, made us better communists and made the movement stronger.

As Willie Nelson sings, “We’re on the road again!” Treasure the moment, remember it always. Never forget the friends we have made here, the shared vision we have kindled, and as Bea Lumpkin says, the joy we have in the struggle!





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