Convention Discussion: Summary of Oregon CP Discussion

BY: Oregon District CPUSA| April 13, 2010

This article is part of the discussion leading up to the Communist Party USA’s 29th National Convention May 21-23, 2010. takes no responsibility for the opinions expressed in this article or other articles in the pre-convention discussion. All contributions must meet the guidelines for discussion. To read other contributions to this discussion, visit the site of the Pre-Convention Discussion period.

All contributions to the discussion should be sent to for selection not to the individual venues.For more information on the convention or the pre-convention discussion period, you can email

The Oregon District of the CPUSA began its pre-convention discussion with a visit from Juan Lopez of the National Committee. Although some sharp differences were apparent in our exchange with Comrade Lopez, the visit was relatively cordial. The following summary reflects a general tendency in our club, not uncompromising conclusions, as we are in the process of ongoing discussion of these complex issues.

Developments in Oregon Politics

We are pleased to note that our club has played an important role in some very positive developments in Oregon. Specifically, the passage of ballot measures 66 and 67, which increased the minimum tax on corporate profits and taxes on households making more than $200,000 per year, respectively, signifies a shift away from Oregon’s anti-tax traditions. Our club also has shown tactical flexibility, leading the way with the and effective use of our blog and Facebook, and we exceeded our Party financial goals last year.

Situation in the Party

Several developments in the Party more generally are worthy of mention. Our club acknowledges that the National Board continues to make decisions, fulfilling its organizational function. The Party is generally unified, and moving into the 21st Century with its growing use of new technologies; the fact that the Party is not being dissolved also greatly pleases us. We also recognize that, after a year of discussing the issue, the decision to end the print edition of the PWW was a correct one, as the PWW did indeed represent a drain on the Party’s financial resources with a minimal return in subscriptions and circulation; the CPUSA is definitely in a better place financially, due in part to the decision to shift to online only in our publications.

However, our club is very concerned with some developments in the Party. Namely, it is not clear what separates the CPUSA, nominally a Marxist-Leninist organization, from a social democratic one. Indeed, leading comrades, including a prominent member of the Economics Commission, openly and proudly declare themselves to be social democrats without consequence; our Party is being taken apart piecemeal and moved in a social democratic direction. Meanwhile, respected Comrades Roger Keeran and Thomas Kenny are attacked for an alleged breach of democratic centralism in what is clearly a selective application of that principle. Further, Comrades Keeran and Kenny are being denied the chance to respond to their detractors by the National Board, which refuses to distribute their response. Moreover, the recent peevishly worded letter to the Canadian Communist Party, and the contemptuous attitude taken toward the Greek CP by some leading comrades inhibits unity between us and our fraternal Parties. There is a clear resistance to any substantive criticism at the highest levels of the Party; leading comrades continually employ straw man attacks against unnamed critics, a tactic which corrodes left unity and leads us towards a destructive polarization.

Analysis of Reform and Electoral Struggles

We appreciate the fact that the 2008 elections were a defeat for the ultra-right, and the vital tactical importance of the 2010 midterm elections. Our club realized that Barack Obama represented a step forward from the policies of the Bush years, and acted accordingly. However, we also correctly recognized the limits of what Obama can accomplish as a President from one of the two parties of big business. We did not expect the political landscape to shift in any fundamental way; our analysis has been proven correct over the past year. Now, a year after Obama’s inauguration, we need to prioritize the struggle for jobs and labor militancy.

Our club also concedes that there are great challenges ahead. The progressive coalition is nowhere near where it needs to be in terms of size, experience and organization; the Obama for America movement is organized from the top down and encourages uncritical support of the President’s initiatives, which is not what we need to move the coalition forward. The coalition should be focused around real-world concerns rather than Obama’s policy proposals. Further, the multi-class nature of this coalition offers both challenges and opportunities. We do not call for abandoning this coalition out of hand, but the Party should take a nuanced approach to it, and avoid submerging itself ideologically. While we grant that a defeat of Obama would be a loss for the left and the working class in general, we are disappointed with the President’s performance thus far, so much so that some of us categorically refuse to vote for any Democratic candidate. Neither do we see the Democratic Party as a workable venue for discussing socialism, building a viable united front, or moving towards an independent third party of labor, all of which are essential if the struggle for socialism is to move forward. Further, we collectively overestimated the implications of the Obama victory, and need to adopt a more critical approach to the Administration in order to better reflect the needs of the working class and its allies. No communist should have been surprised that Obama has not lived up to the glowing expectations spelled out in Party documents such as “Springtime of Possibility”. We also see a lack of thorough explanation of the oft-used terms “transition period” and “fight the ultra-right” coming from the Party leadership; what, specifically, do either of these things mean? Moreover, the actual status of united front efforts is not being discussed by the leadership, despite the emphasis placed on united front politics.

In sum, while we see some positive developments, a majority of the comrades of the Oregon District have serious concerns about the direction our Party has taken, both internally and in broader progressive struggles. We hope that the Party can make the needed changes in order to effectively meet the challenge of building 21st Century socialism.


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