Convention Discussion: Some thoughts on changing our name

BY: Jarvis Tyner| May 29, 2014

Submitted by Jarvis Tyner, Executive Vice-Chair, CPUSA

I am not for changing our name.

I think we can build and large and influential CPUSA in the 21st Century.

We can change our name but there is no way it won’t be widely viewed by right, left and center as a retreat from the struggle against the menace of anti communism.

I assume that comrades pushing for dropping “Communist” from our name see it as positive step forward.I don’t think it will be. I think it will send the message that we no longer think it is possible or necessary to overcome the slanderous attacks against our courageous Party.

Defeating anti Communist intimidation and fear is connected to the fight against racism, for peace and social progress in general. It remains a basic part of the struggle toward advance democracy and Socialism.

There is uneven development but our actual party experience today is that we are growing, we do have influence and we are not isolated. This is a reality that comrades in every region of the country are experiencing on one level or the other.

But even if we were stagnating organizationally and with diminishing influence politically, I still don’t think we should panic. We need a measured and sober assessment of our real situation and fact-based analysis of how we should improve our situation and ultimately accelerate our rate of growth and influence.

We need to study the polls not just recite the numbers. The numbers mean something. There are real human beings expressing views today that 30 year ago were only whispered.

The polls on Socialism I’ve seen are very promising. Most people think socialist and communist are cut from the same ideological cloths and while Socialism is more popular, they are related.

I am encouraged by those polls that show our country trending towards a more favorable attitude towards Socialism. The results that show most youth prefer Socialism to Capitalism are very important to our Party. How could it be otherwise?

Our goal is Bill of Rights Socialism and it is in harmony with what is trending among the youth.

There was also a Rasmussen poll, conducted March 12-13 2011 on Capitalism vs Communism as reported in the People’s World article by Dan Margolis.That poll showed that 11% of those polled consider Communism “morally superior to Capitalism”.

The fact that more than 1 in 10 adult Americans ( we assume they did not poll children) thought Communism was morally superior to the system they are living under everyday should have set in motion a serious effort by our Party to analyze and figure out the real meaning of those figures. Those polls have pages of data and information that could be very valuable to us in developing a campaign to build our party in a new way. But we did not take it seriously.

We kind of let it pass us by. We all should be self critical on that point.

If 11% think Communism is morally superior, what is the percentage that does not support anti-communism or don’t like the right wing red baiting every decent ideal that’s proposed. The media is definitely playing the new anti-communist/anti-Russian card on the Ukraine crisis. Does the lack of any enthusiasm for US military intervention there have to do with the diminishing impact of anti communism? I think it does.

That 2011 poll showed an additional 13% said they were not sure which system is morally superior. I consider, the “not sure” people to be a group in political transition. It is safe to assume that most people have not heard an honest presentation of existing Socialism nor of our Party’s views. These are people living in the richest and most powerful capitalist country in the world in the midst of all the anti communist propaganda yet they are “not sure”. That says a lot.

In pure numbers not counting children 11% is around 25 million people.

And it is very important; that the 2011 poll was taken 20 years after the tragic collapse of the Soviet Union and most of the other Communist Party led Socialist countries. It was a big set back.The collapse was supposed to have made world communism “irreversibly irrelevant.” I don’t think it did.

If we all agree that we need a larger party to play the role we must play in order to advance towards greater democracy and socialism I think we must take these poll results seriously. A lot of most active comrades will tell you that these polls results do reflect their experiences.

Every day people are joining our party on the internet.Where comrades are successful building the size and influence of our party today they are tapping into that 1 in ten group (a group that is growing). The People’s World now has over 64,000 likes.

Through honest struggle, coalition building, debate and discussion, we can convince many more that the slanders against our Party are wrong and our party is a force for good.

The view that as long as we are called Communist Party we will have no future I don’t think can be proven. There is 95 year of struggle that refutes that. The polls and political trends among the American people are saying it is other wise.

Today, more progressive, left-of-center, openly socialist, are winning elections even when they are viciously red-baited. A year after the 2011 poll, Obama ran and was red-baited and he won reelection. Again these polls need to be thoroughly analyzed.

The polls certainly mean a lot more than the empirical arguments like, “comrades don’t feel comfortable admitting they are communist.” Or, “some people think being a communist is silly”.

We all know that everybody doesn’t have to be public to be effective. And of course some people who don’t agree love to make cynical and slanderous remarks about our Party. The question is, do we answer them and engage them? We cannot give in to these cynical insults.

Rather than panic and change the name; a move that will cause great division and raise many more negative questions, we need to unite around a long-range effort to intensify our mass work, to greatly elevate our internet presents with our focus on the primacy of the working class and the immediate fight against extreme right. We need to build the party and the YCL.

Back in the mid 90’s Gus Hall gave his New Years’ speech on CSPAN and we put our 800 number right under Gus as he was speaking.

When it was aired Joe Sims and I were at the national office to answer the calls.We thought we would get a few dozen mostly negative calls. Within a few minutes of Gus’s speech our phone system was overwhelmed with 100s of calls.

We were able to talk to maybe 20% and there were very few right wingers calling.

We did set up a few new clubs but did not have the structure then that we have today to follow through and build functioning clubs.

The CSPAN experience took place just 4 years after the tragic collapse of the USSR and 13 years before Obama’s run for President.

Today the struggle is on a higher level. The historic battles against inequality that helped defeat the right 08 and 12 have created whole a new movements.

To me these developments bring with it heighten consciousness and the necessity to reject racism, anti immigrant, homophobia, anti Semitism: all forms of bigotry and anti communism in order to build unity. Most significantly, today these movements do not exclude Communist.

Where is our evidence that changing the name will bring great results for us? I think calls to change the name are also related to proposals to stop calling our ideology, Marxism Leninism.

I think we need to be very careful that what may be intended to be a change in style and approach, can easily evolve into a change in our ideology and the basic character of the Party.

I know most of the comrades who are pushing for the name change have the best interest of the party at heart. But I think to change our name is objectively a retreat from a principled and honorable struggle for our right to exist, that we have waged for 95 years.

I propose that we table the issue of name change, make a real study of the growing mass sentiments against anti communism. That we examine the many options we have to seriously think through not only why people don’t join our party but why people are joining our party and how to step up our efforts to combat anti communism and build unity of all the progressive forces.

We must step up our efforts to build our party.



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.

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



    Jarvis Tyner is executive vice chair of the Communist Party USA and a long-time member of the party's national board.. He was a founding member of the Black Radical Congress and served on its national coordinating committee for five years.

    Tyner was born in the Mill Creek community of West Philadelphia in 1941 and graduated from West Philadelphia High School. He joined the Communist Party USA at the age of 20. After several years working in various industrial jobs in the Philadelphia area, where he was a member of the Amalgamated Lithographers and the Teamsters union, he moved to New York in 1967 to become the national chair of the DuBois Clubs of America, and later founding chair of the Young Workers Liberation League. He was the Communist Party USA candidate for vice president of the U.S. in 1972 and 1976, running with party leader Gus Hall.

    As a leader of the CPUSA Tyner has been an active public spokesperson against racism, imperialism and war. He has written numerous articles and pamphlets and appears on the media, campuses and in other public venues advocating for peace, equality and the socialist alternative. He currently resides in the Inwood section of Manhattan, N.Y., is married and the father of four adult children and one grandchild.


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