Convention Discussion: What’s in a name?

BY: Gabe Falsetta| May 22, 2014

Submitted by Gabe Falsetta, New York, NY

I’m not sure where to start, so much to think about. Well, let me start from my first experience meeting a communist. As a young man of twenty-one working in the graphic arts industry, I met a member of the International Typographical Union he was a proofreader. Getting to know him, his thoughts, opened my eyes to racism and class; at twenty-one I was a late bloomer to politics.

I’ll never forget reading a 150-page book called “Point of Rebellion” given to me by my co-worker written by Chief Justice William O’Douglas. My long talks with this friend were my education to the class struggle and to institutionalized racism; he was a communist. Point of Rebellion was the foundation that explained the Watts race “riots” in the sixties and the conditions that led up the them.

The wonderful human beings I’ve met at the Unity Book store, the classes I took with Herbert Aptheker that deepened my understanding of class and race. Those that nurtured my growth, all were members of the Communist Party. There was a phrase that Dr. Aptheker used I’ll never forget – If you don’t know the past, you won’t understand the present and you may never grasp the possibilities of the future.

At the New York State Convention held here at the Henry Winston Unity Hall the month of May, a comrade said, “being a communist is the highest form of being human”.

What a truly remarkable history our Party has. I was drawn to the Party for the reasons I have mentioned thus far. Any time I questioned the logic of a tactical question, there always was a comrade to make the case in the most clear and constructive way that allowed me to think more deeply.

I believe the working class is drawn to us, because we are out in the trenches fighting and doing the work communists do, whether we are fighting for a living wage, fighting for racial justice or joining with other progressive forces on so many other fronts.

Why would anyone who believes in the way forward to a better USA free of racism, a USA that will fulfill the ideals of the Bill of Rights and the Communist Manifesto, and some day make those ideals a reality want to change the name of our Party?

We have a unique name, with 95 years of courageous struggles, many times under the most reactionary circumstances. We have been marginalized in the past but one must ask why? The answer is clear to me and should be to all our comrades; The vicious attacks on our Party during the Cold War, vile McCarthyism, backed by big capital and corrupt opportunists; culminating with the executions of the Ethel and Julius Rosenberg.

The execution of the Rosenberg’s was a clear deadly message to our Party, yet in spite of this our leadership continued to struggle against those attacks; eleven of our leaders went to jail, comrade Henry Winston lost his sight due to neglect while imprisoned.

I remind all my contemporary comrades – most of us did not have to contend with the insidious tactics of the FBI under J Edgar Hover and other anti-democratic forces.

Do we want to leave this history hidden from the American people?  Or should we do our very best to bring the truth to the surface? As we continue our work the truth will surface; let us remember, we were attacked because our Party was so effective in organizing the working class.

Our Party is being reinvigorated; I believe this is due to our leadership; the policy changes they have made have helped the districts grow.

It is true that the online joiners make up most of our new members, but speaking for the New York District I can say with confidence that our New York City District Organizer and Party comrades are doing what our Party has always done – talking, inviting and standing with our class in their struggles while fully embracing new technology

I would like to give some concrete examples as to why our Party is growing; leaders of various grass roots and progressive organizations, unions have been a part of our recent events; a leader of New York NOW, local president of 1707, leaders in the housing movement, Angela Davis, renowned scholar, former political prisoner and leader in the civil rights movement, have been our guests at recent events.

A recent article in the NY Times of April 1st reported on an issue of copyright infringement concerning the works of Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels – without getting into details – suffice it to say, there has been a growing interest on the subject and recent polls have shown that the youth in the U.S. do not have a favorable opinion of capitalism and are investigating socialism; what is it? How does it work?

The Party was in the forefront of the fight for Social Security, Workers Compensation, Collective Bargaining, and the fight against Jim Crow. Why else would we be so viciously attacked? It’s worth repeating; we were attacked because our Party was so effective in organizing the working class.

No, it’s not about name change – which I believe would demoralize not only Party members but would also have a negative affect on those I have mentioned, who are learning the truth about the Communist Party and who are joining with us in this fight for a better America, an America free of poverty and racism and all types of discrimination.

It’s about continuing the battle of ideas and winning over the 99%. It is our job to help bring the truth to the surface and expose the huge body of disinformation about our Party.

We are now once again closer to organized labor than we have ever been in recent years. The year before the death of Gus Hall, a leader and chair of our Party, he was honored by the Steel Union that he helped organize and led during the Little Steel strike.

In 1996 the new leadership of the AFL-CIO under John Sweeney dropped its anti-communist clause. Richard Trumka gave one of the most powerful anti-racist speeches during the Obama campaign for the presidency in 2008. His depth of understanding the question – I would say – was influenced by our Party’s mass actions and writings on the lingering effects of institutionalized racism.

Our on-line paper is well respected by labor – our own labor reporter John Wojcik has received an award from the International Labor Commission Association which is the journalist’s organization of the AFO-CIO and Change to Win for the excellent coverage concerning labor issues; our influence continues to grow. The number of people visiting our web site grows every week, every month.

I would like to share a thought we should consider as our Party continues the struggle for a more just America, a Socialist America. At a recent Party Conference a comrade member of our religious commission made a comment that drew laughter; he said, [I paraphrase] If we change our name, how should I reference Jesus? I like to say, Jesus was a communist… How would we make Jesus one of our own?

I think it is important for the American people to understand that our Party is made up of the working class, our class has many hues, and very few things in life are black and white. We cast a wide net.

There are names we can relegate to history; Jim Crow, Plessy vs. Ferguson, the Combination Acts, these are all history – fortunately – but, our Party is on the right side of history, is it not absolutely necessary for the American people to know the history of our courageous Party?

Happy 95th to the Communist Party USA!

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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To contribute to the discussion, visit the Convention Discussion webpage

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


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