By Carl Davidson
For our pre-convention discussion
From its inception, CCDS has seen itself as a transitional organization, a bridge to something larger, more inclusive and more effective as a political instrument for the US left in the 21st century.
We are now nearly over that bridge, and if you’ll pardon my mixing metaphors, we are also now nearing the end game. The chess players among you will appreciate the point. Our forces are much reduced, and the end game is always very tricky. If you play it carelessly, coasting along, without much thought, well, you can easily lose. But if you play the end game well, you can still win.
What would winning look like in our ‘end game’? Let’s start with who we are. We have about 400 members active to some degree, and perhaps half of that fully active. We are largely ‘1968ers’, veterans of the ‘Long 1960s,’ starting in 1958 or so and extending into the early 1970s.
This means we have a lot of wisdom and political experience under our belts, and that we are, for the most part, well embedded in mass organizations-trade union and civil rights, peace and justice, women and climate change, and so on. I won’t do the whole laundry list, but despite low numbers, we are fairly well connected and embedded in the mass struggles.
Demographically, we are also increasingly retirees. This frees up many of us to devote even more time to the cause. But it also means, to a great degree, some of us also reduce our level of activity and engagement-and it’s only natural and personally healthy that we do so. Nonetheless, we don’t have the same connections with a younger, rising generation, or social lives that bring us into regular contact with them, their groups and their debates and ideas.
In brief, I’m arguing that politics is largely generational, especially politics with revolutionary goals embedded in radical insurgencies. The main fighting forces today come from the Millennials, and we are increasingly on the other side of a generational divide to a degree that we can no longer discount. I’ll also note here that we are not alone in facing this problem. The CPUSA and other groups largely made up of 1968ers face the same difficulties.
We have been well aware of this situation for some time. A few years back, we tried to organize ‘inter-generational dialogues’ in ten cities. We had mixed results. A few were excellent, others less so-but we made a good effort. For at least five years, we have also taken part in gatherings that draw in young radicals, like the Left Forum and the School of the Americas Watch, to engage in discussions and present ourselves with an upbeat public face, aiming to draw in younger recruits. We have created a number of valuable tools for radical education-the Online University of the Left, CCDSLinks, the annual publication of Dialogue and Initiative in an attractive book form, regular online discussion forums-and we have hosted or taken part in a number of ‘Left Unity’ gatherings and mass campaigns, like the Fight for 15, Black Lives Matter, and the Sanders campaign, largely comprised of younger people.
All this is to the good. But for us, it’s still not enough. A ‘next left’ of 21st Century socialists is indeed emerging, but not quite as we planned or thought it might happen. Our major miscalculation was an assumption that we could draw these people to us. That, to be frank, with a few valuable exceptions, is not likely to happen. Instead, we are going to have to merge with them. That’s the ‘radical rupture’ I’m proposing for our ‘end game.’ It was also the main conclusion Carl Bloice and I arrived at together in a discussion we had the month before his unfortunate passing.
So what should we do? Let’s start with our aforementioned 400 members. What would be an ambitious goal over the next, say, three years? How about helping to pull together a nationwide left unity project with, say, some 4000 cadres? Obviously, this is not going to happen with us alone, or even mainly with us. But what would we want of such a formation?
First, that it be primarily made up of people from the 20 to 45 age range, ie, the generation of our children and their younger friends. (This comes from the strategic consideration that every revolutionary force in history is comprised mainly of the young).
Second, we would want it to be a full rainbow of nationalities, even a ‘majority of minorities’ as well as well-balanced genderwise. (This come from the strategic consideration that the US revolution’s main forces will come from mainly from an alliance and merger of the general workers movements with the struggles of the oppressed, especially people of color and women, ie, the dimension of ‘intersectionality.’)
Third, we would want them embedded in the insurgencies of the young ‘precariat’ as well as having a foothold in more traditional trade unions and civil society organizations.
Fourth, we would want them to be flexible on electoral matters, willing to back candidates like Bernie, Khasama Sawant, Greens and even, in some cases, ‘lesser evils.’ (This comes from the strategic notion that history is made by the masses and of necessity of exhausting the battles for democracy, including the winning of government positions, and forming multi-class alliances, popular fronts, in the process).
Fifth, we would want them to love learning, to transform themselves into the ‘organic intellectuals’ and ‘permanent persuaders’ of a new Modern Prince, of a dynamic and disciplined ‘militant minority’ but a militant minority OF a progressive majority. (This comes from the deep connection between strategic alliances and the need for a core independent organization of the sector of the working class aiming for a new socialist order as well as immediate and transitional victories-the stronger the core, the broader the front).
The good news is that these forces are on the horizon, or exist in embryo, however you want to put it. The one with national reach is LeftRoots, which is working, city by city, to transform from a network to city-based cadre organizations. Another is the Boston Left Unity Project and NYC’s Left Labor Project, where CCDS, CP, Solidarity, Freedom Road, Jacobin Readers and others are meeting and planning educational events. There are already more than 40 Jacobin reading groups spread across the country, and we are active in at least three of them. Still others are new local circles of Millennial socialists-Philly Socialists, Kentucky Workers League, Appalachian Left, Louisville Socialists and others. They have been holding joint study retreats and conferences.
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For our pre-convention discussion.
by Duncan McFarland
First I want to consider both the world situation and needs of the larger movement, and then how CCDS may contribute. Globally, climate change is growing worse, and while there was political progress at COP21 in Paris, measures to respond are still inadequate. Countries are modernizing their nuclear arsenals and wars are constant. In the US, the rich get richer while others struggle, racism and anti-immigrant sentiment is increasing. On the other hand, leftist social movements are strengthening, the prestige of socialism in increasing among young people, and there is rising populist energy on both the left and right. Confidence in mainstream institutions has fallen to a low point; this polarization is reflected in the enthusiasm for Sanders and Trump in the presidential campaign and corresponding lack of juice for Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush.
In the world today, US capitalism/imperialism is losing economic clout, has ceded all moral authority, and has declining political influence. US policy more and more relies on its only trump card, military power. Is this the period of the final decline of global capitalism? It is difficult to predict whether capitalism will again renew itself as it has always done since the many crises since World War I, but certainly this is a time of weakening of the system and opportunity for a strong anti-capitalist movement.
Marx and Engels clearly foresaw in general terms the eventual breakdown of the capitalism, leading to revolution and socialism. They described in scientific terms the historic role of the communists, socialists and working class as the leading force in the transformation to the new society. Setting aside for now consideration of the role of the five states internationally which are a product of socialist revolution (Cuba, China, Vietnam, Laos and North Korea), the socialist movement in the US is today fragmented, lacks power and is mostly ineffective in stepping up to fulfill its historic mission. This poses a dilemma, there are "no shortcuts" in rebuilding socialism yet the time of day requires urgency. Much that is relevant can be learned from left movements especially in Latin America and Europe.
The time has passed for the 1960s activist generation to form the leadership core for social transformation in the US. Older folks have a seat at the table, they may still make an important and even critical contribution, but the still challenging decisions on structure and program for the socialist movement will mostly be made by younger comrades.
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By Harry Targ
During the twentieth century the dominant circumstances of political life were clear. As capitalism evolved from manufacturing to finance, the character of international relations changed. Crude militarism, while constant, was increasingly aided by covert operations, and most importantly by economic penetration.
The United States as the hegemonic actor on the world stage during most of the century was the clear target of anti-war activism and class struggle at home. National liberation movements rose up to resist the drive for imperial control. Since contradictions existed in international and intra-national affairs our task was clearly to struggle against imperialism, monopoly capitalism, racism and sexism.
Twenty-first century global political economy is also characterized by these key features. Perhaps the “grand narrative,” as post-modernists would call it, remains the same. But, and this is critical, the politics of daily life is far more complicated and it is these complications that give the appearance of chaos. The old narrative and the chaos we experience need to be understood together; particularly among those of us who are committed to the vision of a twenty-first century socialism.
First, the current violence in the Middle East/Persian Gulf is escalating and spreading to other regions. The vicious violence in Paris and Beirut by presumably ISIS followers leads to mass murder. ISIS seems to represent a new brutal form of anti-systemic violence that shows no mercy or humanity. It has its roots in French and British colonial rule in the Middle East, United States collaboration with the Saudi monarchy, western support for the creation of the state of Israel in contradiction to those living on the land, a US-led war on Iraq in 1991, and the US wars of the twenty-first century in Afghanistan and Iraq. Blood is on the hands of every western power in the region but, in terms of victims of violence everywhere, blood also is on the hands of ISIS, Al Qaeda, the Syrian government, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, Russia, and Iran. Violence is about economic control, political hegemony, nationalism, resistance, and, perhaps to a lesser extent, religious sectarianism and fundamentalisms. The violence is also about arms transfers, racism, and hate.
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By Paul Krehbiel
Pat Fry has presented a very good document to begin our pre-convention discussion. Titled, "The Progressive Majority, Left Unity, and the Tasks of CCDS," she begins by explaining how and why CCDS was founded, the development of our main document (For a Democratic and Socialist Future), the development of the theory of the Progressive Majority as our basic organizing strategy (and proposals to change that strategy), efforts to build left unity, and the role of the left — especially CCDS. She talked about the key mass movements of our time, the links CCDS has to these movements, and efforts to build a more united and stronger left to win more victories for the people while laying the foundation for socialism. I agree with the general framework of our main political document and Pat’s presentation.
With this paper, I want to specifically add to Pat’s last paragraph. After addressing the major tasks before us (and the broader left), Pat states that "the tasks outstrip our capacity within CCDS as we face a declining membership in numbers and demographics, faltering finances, and weak local chapters." Given this, Pat recommends that we consider reorganizing the internal structure of CCDS, and focus on left unity and educational work.
I want to suggest that we add an organizing component to this, with more details and focus in our organizing plan and strategy to address how to best organize on the ground. Regarding the size of our membership, we have what we have and have to start here. More important is developing the best possible organizing plan and strategy. If that is done, we will gain new members. This is not a simple task. A number of efforts have been made to do this and I want to acknowledge and pay tribute to those efforts. Every effort has helped, and has added to our store of knowledge of how to develop an effective organizing strategy. Because this task is difficult, I want to recommend that we make a concerted effort to probe this topic during our pre-convention discussion period. In my view, this is the most important task before us, precisely because of Pat’s assessment of CCDS in her last paragraph. My goal is to begin the discussion of how we can recruit more members, build active and strong chapters, and improve our finances. In short, it requires a detailed organizing plan.
CCDS has played and continues to play an important and unique role within the left and progressive movements. To see CCDS decline and possibly cease to exist would be a significant loss to the left, the people’s movement’s, and to the larger society. I say this not to slight other left organizations and movements. Almost every organization on the left has a positive role to play. We recognize and welcome the contributions they make. Trying different strategies and tactics, and having different focuses of work, all add to the cumulative knowledge of the left and society and how to conduct our work. Life will reveal which strategies succeed and which need retooling.
When I urge a focus on building CCDS, this does not mean a shift away from mass work, nor theoretical and educational work. To the contrary, mass work, based on rich theoretical and educational work, must be at the center of what we do. The question is: how do we carry out mass work in a way that will best strengthen the mass movements, and CCDS.
To begin this discussion, I want to offer several ideas. I am not presenting a fully developed organizing plan. But I’m hopeful that these ideas will stimulate a discussion that will lead to that goal.
We need a simple, clear and bold statement of who we are, what we believe, what we want, and how we propose to succeed. This should be printed in many copies for public consumption. It should be short enough that it can be read in a couple of minutes, and be easily understood by all. This would be the main introduction of CCDS to the people and to those we want to recruit. This would spell out simply what we believe and make it easy for people to say, "yes, I agree with that, and I know why I’m joining." What follows is a first draft of that proposed document; I welcome feedback, discussion, amendments, etc.
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For CCDS Pre-Convention Discussion
By Pat Fry, CCDS Co-Chair
This paper is offered for pre-convention discussion. The first section is a review of the history of CCDS and the “Progressive Majority” movement-building strategy. The second section reviews Left Unity efforts and its relationship to building the Progressive Majority. The final section is on the tasks of the left and CCDS as we approach our national convention in July 2016.
Section 1 “For a Democratic and Socialist Future”
“For a Democratic and Socialist Future” is the founding document of CCDS. It was the focus of discussions for two years beginning with a national conference, “Perspectives for Democracy and Socialism in the 1990s,” held in 1992 in Berkeley, CA. The conference brought together over a thousand leftists from various political backgrounds. Many had recently resigned from the Communist Party USA in a struggle over democracy within the organization. Others had been members of various Socialist parties and many others were unaffiliated. Organizations sent representatives such as Solidarity, the National Committee for Independent Political Action, and the Crossroads magazine. There was an excitement about the possibility of launching a revitalized Left guided by principles of democracy and socialism, one that would “brush aside old barriers” and “develop constructive dialog on strategic issues and seek agreement on action.”
A committee elected at the Berkeley conference met to chart a course for what became the Committees of Correspondence, founded in Chicago in July 1994. The “For a Democratic and Socialist Future” document was the defining goals and principles of the new socialist organization. It presented an analysis of class forces in the aftermath of the collapse of Soviet socialism, and the importance of rebuilding a democratic and socialist left in the face of capitalist triumphalism over the defeat of much of the socialist world.
When the CoC was founded, Bill Clinton had been in the White House for two and a half years. The founding document noted that while the Clinton administration was more responsive to popular pressure and his election was a defeat for the extreme anti-people policies of Reagan and Bush, the Clinton “New Democrats” represented a growing long-term influence of neo-conservatism. Clinton’s refusal to raise the minimum wage, the ending of Aid to Dependent Children, “workfare, not welfare,” and NAFTA were examples cited. The newly founded Committees of Correspondence called for a new political realignment in the country:
“We believe that what is needed is a comprehensive approach linking progressive currents into a broad, ongoing democratic force. We advocate a powerful, democratic political realignment, based on a new progressive social contract which empowers the masses of American working people.”
A vision of socialism was outlined:
“By socialism we do not mean a social system in which the state dominates everything, or in which authoritarian measures are used to restrict human rights. Socialism without democracy is not socialism at all.” Rather, socialism “is a political, cultural, economic and ethical project, a struggle to transform power relations within a class divided society for the benefit of the overwhelming majority of the people. Socialism is not a fixed entity, but the social product of the dynamics of class struggle. Socialism must and will be constantly redefined by oppressed people who are engaged in struggle, over a long period of time.”
The Committees envisioned itself as a bridge to a larger socialist organization:
“While we seek to facilitate strategic cooperation among existing left groups which share basic principles, we believe there is a need for a much larger progressive and socialist organization, one more reflective of the working class and oppressed communities and the radical democratic movements than any existing organization. “
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By Carl Davidson, Bill Fletcher, Jr. and Pat Fry
Download as PDF HERE
Introduction: The following eight-point proposal is designed to initiate both a discussion and a process. The points can be further refined, and subtracted from or added to. Given the scope of the challenges ahead of us, there is a certain degree of urgency, but it is also wise to take to time to start off on a sound footing, uniting all who can be united. The main things it wants to bring into being at all levels—local, regional, national or in sectors—are common projects. Some of these already exist, such as the Left Labor Project in New York City, a good example of what we are advocating here. It brought together organizers from CCDS, CPUSA, DSA, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, and other independent left trade unionists and activists. Over a few years work, it was able to build a far wider alliance bringing together the city’s labor organizations and allied social movements to bring out tens of thousands on May Day.
We know that many of us are already involved in a wide variety of projects. But is there any compelling reason we have to do this separately, behaving like a wheelbarrow full of frogs trying to win a common goal? A good case in point is Chuy Garcia’s mayoral campaign in Chicago. Wouldn’t this campaign be better served if we worked together in a planned way to draw in and skillfully deploy even more forces? Or take the labor-community alliance projects building solidarity for labor strikes or the campaign for an increase in the minimum wage? We can all make a long list here, but the core idea should be apparent, at least for starters, and we invite your responses and queries.
1. We need something new
. The left is not likely to find critical mass through mergers of existing groups, although any such events would be positive. But a new formation to which all would be equally cooperative in a larger project—call it a Left Front or Left Alliance—would have a greater impact. Groups participating in it could retain whatever degree of autonomy they desire, such as keeping their own newspapers, national committees, local clubs meeting separately, and so on. Every group involved can exercise its own independence and initiative, to the degree it finds necessary. But all would be striving in common to help the overall project succeed. While the US situation is not strictly comparable, the Front de Gauche in France, Die Linke in Germany, PODEMOS in Spain and Syriza in Greece serve as examples.
2. We need a ‘project based’ common front.
At the grassroots level, it would be comprised of joint projects—electoral, union organizing, campaigns against the far right, for a living wage or reducing student debt, for opposing war, racism, sexism and police violence, and many others. The existing left groups in a factory, a neighborhood, a city or a campus, would be encouraged to advance the joint projects.
3. We need a ‘critical mass’ at the core that is both young, working class and diverse.
While people from all demographics are welcome, the initial core has to be largely drawn from the Millennials, those born after 1980 or so. And the core also has to be a rainbow of nationalities with gender equity, and well-connected to union and working class insurgencies. If the initial core at the beginning is too ‘white’ or too ‘1968ers’, it will not be a pole with the best attractive power for a growing new generation of socialist and radical minded activists.
4. We need a common aspiration for socialism.
That’s what makes us a ‘Left Front or Left Alliance’ rather than a broader popular front or people’s coalition. We are strongly supportive of these wider coalitions and building the left is not done in isolation from them. But we also see the wisdom in the concept: the stronger the core, the broader the front. Moreover we do not require a unified definition on what socialism is; only that a larger socialist pole makes for an even wider, deeper and more sustainable common front of struggle.
5. We do not need full agreement on strategy.
A few key concepts—the centrality of fighting white supremacy, the intersection of race, class and gender, the alliance and merger of the overall workers movement and the movements of the communities of the oppressed—will do. We can also agree on cross-class alliances focused on critical targets: new wars, the far right and the austerity schemes imposed by finance capital. Additional elements, perspectives, nuances and ‘shades of difference’ can be debated, discussed and adjusted in the context of ongoing struggle
6. We need a flexible but limited approach to elections.
We can affirm that supporting our own or other candidates is a matter of tactics to be debated case-by-case, and not a matter of ‘principle’ that would exclude ever voting for any particular Democrat, Green or Socialist. We see the importance for social movements to have an electoral arm that presses and fights for their agenda within government bodies.
7. We need to be well embedded in grassroots organizations.
Especially important are the organizations of the working class and in the communities of the oppressed—unions and worker centers, civil rights and women’s rights, youth and students, peace and justice, churches and communities of faith, cooperatives and other groups tied to the solidarity economy, and other community-based NGOs and nonprofits.
8. We need to be internationalists.
But we do not have to require support for any particular countries or bloc of countries and national liberation movements, past or present. But we do oppose the wars of aggression, occupations and other illicit interventions of ‘our own’ ruling class, along with the hegemonism, ‘superpower mentality’ and Great Power chauvinism it promotes. That is the best way we can promote world peace and practice solidarity and assistance to forces beyond our borders.
[Carl Davidson and Pat Fry are national co-chairs of Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. Bill Fletcher Jr. is a member of several socialist organizations and author of ‘They’re Bankrupting Us! And 20 Other Myths about Unions’ Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org ]
The National Coordinating Committee met at its quarterly meeting September 28th and took stock of the current worldwide crises brought on by U.S. imperialism and the growing repression and protests at home. Opening with a presentation on the “Political Time of Day – At Home and Abroad,” Carl Davidson discussed the new round of U.S. “crusader” wars on Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Referring to Tom Hayden’s writings on what he calls “The Long War,” Davidson said it is part of a wider framework – “a war that will go on for decades and involve more than the Middle East but also Yemen and other areas of Africa.”
Davidson noted that the “Occupy Central” uprisings in Hong Kong were, in part, aimed at breaking it away from China. “While many protestors have legitimate concerns, we should be very wary about being sucked into any attempts to break up China,” said Davidson.
On the home front austerity continues, said Davidson. Finance capital has recovered from the 2008 recession but another bubble of debt is building. The “racist bloc” in Congress blocks everything President Obama tries to do, and racism is behind the attacks on Attorney General Eric Holder, he said. “While Holder left a lot to be desired, the attacks on him have been based on racism like the attacks on Obama,” said Davidson.
The ongoing protests in Ferguson, said Davidson, are drawing important attention to the epidemic rise of racist police killings of Black youth in Missouri and many cities around the country.
On the 2014 elections, Davidson said that if the Senate remains in hands of the Democrats, it will be by one or two seats and is too close to call at this point. “We have to go all out to get out the vote, organize around the local issues that will bring people to the polls, utilize social networking,” he said. “We need to weaken the Republican bloc in any way we can,” said Davidson.
In discussion, several NCC members commented on the issue of the racist police crimes in Ferguson, New York City and elsewhere. Carl Redwood (PA) spoke about the protests organized in Ferguson, MO for Oct. 10-13. Police attacks on Blacks are continuing and not reported by the media, he said. “A number of activities are being linked – from the Ferguson protests to the new trial in December of Marissa Alexander in Florida,” said Redwood. CCDS members in Pittsburgh and Lexington are organizing with local coalitions to bring car loads of people to participate in the Ferguson protests.
Ted Reich (NY) noted that the police “stop and frisk” is still a reality for Black and Latino New Yorkers. “This year arrests of minorities are at the same percentage – 86% – as last year under the previous mayor.
Pat Fry (NY) urged everyone to read the speech by AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka at the Missouri labor federation on the issue of racism and why it is in labor’s interest to speak out on the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson. Fry said that the entire speech should be read because stories about it have omitted some of the most important passages; for example, Trumka’s recounting of the 1917 labor-led racist attack on Black workers as an example of how racism divides and hurts all workers.
Zach Robinson (NC) drew attention to the Ebola crisis used to extend the U.S. global war in Africa. He also noted a poll showing that satisfaction with U.S. governance has reached the same low level as during the Watergate crisis.
Randy Shannon (PA) said that much of the continuing financial crisis that began in 2008 is being ignored. Long-term unemployment continues and the global crisis of capital is intensifying, reminiscent of the situation before WW I and II, said Shannon. The BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries are developing an alternative economic structure not based on U.S. dollars which is bad for U.S. finance and in the past has led to wars, he said.
Local Area Developments
Brief highlights of developments locally were presented by Tina Shannon (PA), Harry Targ (IN), and Kathy Sykes (MS). Shannon spoke about working in Western PA on issues of Climate Change and the fight against fracking with the Marcellus Shale Coalition. Members are using the recently issued CCDS pamphlet, “System Change, Not Climate Change” in local coalition work.
Targ reported on the newly launched Indiana Moral Mondays and the success of a mass meeting in Indianapolis with Rev. William Barber, President of the NC NAACP and leader of the North Carolina Moral Monday movement. Targ represented CCDS in the coalition that organized the events.
Sykes reported on the “Moral Movement Mississippi” that held a rally and march in downtown Jackson shortly after she returned from the People’s Climate March in NYC. On October 9th, Sykes reported that the Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan, a community labor coalition of which she is a member will host a visit by union leaders from seven countries organized by IndustriaALL Global Union in support of the UAW organizing campaign at Nissan. Sykes spoke of efforts to build a CCDS chapter in Jackson and said there is interest in joining among activists she works with.
Paul Krehbiel (So. CA) said “there are organizations that we work with that are open to CCDS and open to socialism as they define it. We have an important opportunity to talk about what we mean by socialism.” Krehbiel proposed that CCDS produce a pamphlet on the topic.
Other areas have launched CCDS organizing initiatives. In Greenville, NC, Zach Robinson reported on the “Socialist Social Hour” dinner and discussion gatherings which bring together some 20-25 people regularly. Not all identify as socialists, said Robinson, but they are people active in organizations with socialists. Ira Grupper (KY) reported that there is a CCDS study group started up in Louisville. Janet Tucker (KY) said that the local CCDS chapter in Lexington continues to hold monthly “Socialist Brunches” with good discussion on issues of the day.
People’s Climate March
Anne Mitchell (NY) and Ted Reich (NY) reported on the successful People’s Climate March on September 21st in NYC. They noted the important aspects of the march including the participation of the labor movement, indigenous communities, large numbers of young people and those impacted by “Superstorm Sandy” that devastated NY and NJ coastal areas. The CCDS contingent had participation from members in NY, Boston, and Pittsburgh. The CCDS pamphlet was distributed in good numbers both at the “Convergence” workshops the day preceding the march as well as at the march itself. CCDS member David Schwartzman of Washington D.C. presented at one of the workshops and promoted the CCDS pamphlet.
Marian Gordon reported that CCDS was active with others in a Los Angeles left unity group to build a march of some 2,000 people in conjunction with the People’s Climate March in NYC the same day. Steve Willett (N. CA) reported that CCDS and others on the left played an important role in organizing a People’s Climate March in the Bay Area with eventual participation by 350.org and the Sierra Club. He said the initial push and organizing were undertaken by the Bay Area Eco-Socialist Project.
Cole Harrison (MA) attended the NYC march as part of the Peace contingent which held a pre-march rally. The peace movement did its part with a strong turnout and participation, said Harrison.
Finance and Membership
Treasurer Steve Willett presented the following report on membership and finances: As of September 27, CCDS had $30,533.40 in cash assets. Reserves declined somewhat over the year. The cash flow shows that we have spent about $4,000 more than we have taken in this year to date. This is mainly attributable to increased spending in two areas – conference expenses this year, primarily travel, and the printing of D&I and the Climate Change pamphlet, even though we raised almost $2,000 to support the pamphlet. Our membership continues its long-term decline, although there are fluctuations during the year. The net affect each year has been the loss of a few dozen members, and currently our national membership stands at around 450.”
Carl Davidson and Steve Willett reported that the CCDS web site was hacked and had to be taken down and rebuilt. Courtney Childs (OR) volunteered to help with the project. Long time CCDS webmaster Senora Amos retired from the position after building the organization’s first web site and working on it for several years. The Administrative Committee thanked Senora for all her dedicated work in a letter of appreciation together with a small severance.
The Future of CCDS: Paths to a New Organization
Carl Davidson reported on discussions within the Organizing Committee on the future of CCDS in the context of efforts at building left unity. Davidson talked about new organizing initiatives of socialist youth including LeftRoots, Jacobin study circles, Young Democratic Socialists, Young Communist League, Philly Socialists, and the Kentucky Workers League. The Organizing Committee will offer more concretes and a guide for NCC discussion in the coming weeks on how CCDS can help build these initiatives and work toward left unity. Carl urged NCC members or local CCDS chapters to consider becoming a financial sustainer to LeftRoots, called “compas” (short for the “compañeras”). Some CCDS members already participate in Jacobin study circles and YDS youth conferences in various areas of the country.
Davidson noted the resources that CCDS has built up over the years that should be utilized in promoting joint activity, i.e., Portside, CCDS Links, Online University of the Left, D&I, and our local area chapters.
A report on CCDS participation at the 2014 School of the Americas protest November 21-23 at Ft. Benning in Georgia was presented by Carl Davidson and Jim Skillman. A committee will plan content for CCDS workshops during the weekend activities, coordinate members who can participate, reserve a literature table and hotel rooms and other logistics. Davidson reported that the committee has invited the YCL, LeftRoots, YDS and Jacobin Magazine to share a “left unity” literature table.
Anne Mitchell reported on the newly established “Carl Bloice Institute for Socialist Education” youth school sponsored by the Committees of Correspondence Education Fund that will be held October 23-25, 2014 in New York City. Twenty young people from around the country are expected to participate, some of whom attended the school held during the 2014 CCDS convention in Pittsburgh. A reception will be held Thursday evening and sessions will take place the following Friday and Saturday. The classes will include Labor; Religion and Capitalism; Immigration Reform; Transnational Solidarity: US, Cuba, South Africa; Theory & Practice in The Struggle for Democracy & Socialism; Left Unity; Hereditary Poverty to Poverty Alleviation: Challenges for a New Generation of Organizers; and Healthcare As A Human Rights Issue, or What’s Capitalism Got To Do With It.
The next meeting of the NCC will be held January 11, 2015.
Part of the CCDS team at the conference: Kathy Sykes, Janet Tucker, Harry Targ, Paul Krehbiel
By Paul Krehbiel
Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism
"The capitalist class is in a serious crisis without solution," said David Schweikart at the Moving Beyond Capitalism conference held in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico from July 30-August 5, 2014. "But there is a solution," he said, "economic democracy, democratic socialism." Over 200 people from 15 countries discussed how to make this happen, organized by the Center for Global Justice.
Chronic high unemployment, depression of wages and benefits, cuts in social services, and growing inequality and repression, and social and political resistance are endemic to nearly all capitalist countries, said Schweikart, a Philosophy professor at Loyola University in Chicago, and author of After Capitalism.
Schweikart’s model of democratic socialism calls for a regulated competitive market economy, socialized means of production and democratic workplaces (he advocates worker-run cooperatives as an example), non-profit public banks to finance projects, full employment, and a guarantee that human needs will be meet for everyone.
Cliff DuRand, a conference organizer, said people are creating alternatives to capitalism today all over the world. "If we’ve built these alternative institutions, the next time the capitalist system collapses…we will be able to survive without it."
Gustavo Esteva, a former Mexican government official, founder of the University of the Land in Oxaca, and an advisor to the Zapatistas in Chiapas in southern Mexico, gave a good account of how the indigenous people of this region are creating a new democratic and socialist-oriented society that they control, within the borders of a capitalist Mexico. The Zapatistas launched an armed uprising in the mid-1990’s to stop NAFTA and the Mexican government from allowing multi-national corporations to come into Chiapas to extract minerals to enrich the corporations and destroy their lives and their local economy.
Ana Maldonado of the Venezuelan Ministry of Communal Economy could not attend, so University of Utah Professor Al Campbell filled in for her. Campbell has worked in Venezuelan with the Community Councils, a new form of grassroots democracy and socialism. Created in 2006 by the late socialist president Hugo Chavez, there are 20,000 Community Councils today, each holding meetings in neighborhoods where all residents can attend, discuss, and vote on decisions for their community.
Private, for-profit banks came under sharp attack for causing the 2008 Great Recession, and for ripping off billions of dollars from people world-wide, primarily through charging high interest rates. Ellen Brown, founder of the Public Banking Institute based in California, declared, "Without interest payments, there would be no national debt," which now stands at over $15 trillion. Politicians use the debt as an excuse to cut funds for education, health care and other social programs. An example of local bank rip-offs is a bank loan for the purchase of a house, where the homeowner pays the bank 2-3 times or more than the cost of the house due to interest payments.
Brown said the solution is to set up not-for-profit public or state banks — like the Bank of North Dakota. She describes how to do it in her book Democratizing Money: The Public Bank Solution. Since the 2008 economic crash, 20 other states including California have introduced bills to study or establish publicly-owned state banks.
"The US controls third world countries," Brown explained, "by putting them in debt and then forcing repayment with high interest rates," which they can’t afford to pay. Brown said the book, Confessions of an Economic Hitman, by John Perkins, explains how devastating this is.
Coops in Cuba
Camila Pineiro Harnecker, a leader of the cooperative movement in socialist Cuba, explained that her country is giving much more attention to the development of worker-run cooperatives as a way to help workers create jobs for themselves, and learn how to become masters of their work and work lives. The state socialist sector dominates the economy, but coops now comprise 12% of the workforce and are expected to increase in number.
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All CCDS Members and Friends
The most important march to save our planet will take place in New York City September 21st. We urge your fullest participation. The march will be held on the occasion of the UN Summit on Climate Change two days following the march. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon will be joining the march along with tens of thousands. Trains, buses and planes will be coming in from all over the country.
CCDS is among more than 1,000 endorsing organizations. Below are March details. For more information and flyers, go to www.peoplesclimate.org.
This will be an important opportunity to distribute our new CCDS brochure “Change the System, not the Climate.” (click here)
Look for the CCDS banner and march with our contingent. Check back at this site for details of location to be announced soon.
Call or write Ted Reich of Metro NY CCDS for more information on the CCDS participation:
The March – 11:30 am, Sunday, September 21st
Assembly location: the area north of Columbus Circle.
- The march will begin at 11:30 am.
- leave Columbus Circle and go east on 59th Street
- turn onto 6th Ave. and go south to 42nd Street
- turn right onto 42nd Street and go west to 11th Ave
- turn left on 11th Ave. and go south to 34th Street
End Location: 11th Ave. in the streets between 34th Street and 38th Street
FROM REBELLION TO COMMUNITY CONTROL OF THE POLICE: A MESSAGE OFSOLIDARITY FROM CHICAGO TO FERGUSON
By Frank Chapman, Field Organizer
Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression
The murder, this past Sunday, of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18 year old African American, in Ferguson, Missouri has resulted in an uprising of the people. We send heart-felt condolences to the family and friends of Michael Brown and stand in solidarity with the sisters and brothers in Ferguson.
The media has focused on the so-called “rioting” and the police with dogs, clubs and guns ready were poised for making the usual blood bath to put down the rebellion. But the determined will of the people to stop police crimes also erupted in organized mass protest and “cries of no justice no peace!” We can say to our sisters and brothers in the struggle in Ferguson thank you for not being quiet and tame in the face of death stalking our communities like a hungry lion. Thank you for your outrage and for finding the courage to stand up to police who are more and more behaving like an organized lynch mob. Criminals who operate under the authority of the badge are the worst kind of criminals because the system will not jail them or prosecute them when they commit crimes against African Americans and Latinos. So we say to the powers that be don’t you dare counsel us about “rioting” until you stop these lawless acts of cops who kill and brutalize our people with impunity. Who do you think you are that you can murder and abuse us and spew your racist venom at us and then chide us about being outraged?
Let’s look at some underlying realities. The population of Ferguson is at least 60% African American and its poverty is double Missouri’s average. While Black people are struggling with poverty there is also in Ferguson Emerson Electric, a $24 billion company with 132,000 employees all around the world. In an area where there are billions of dollars in revenue poverty is common place and police repression rampant. This is the reality of the United States of North America which claims to be concerned about democracy in Iraq but can’t take a stand against the unwarranted violence perpetrated against its own citizens and residents.
We must make this a political struggle because we are confronted with political repression with a racist cutting edge. In our righteous anger we must not just engage in rants of rage. We must start now to organize people to force our political representatives to enact laws that will empower the people to hold the police accountability for the crimes they commit. We need a strong democratic voice through an elected Civilian Police Accountability Council. That’s what we are fighting for here in Chicago but police crimes are not confined to Chicago we must fight for this everywhere. Ferguson included.
For more information on the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, see <http://naarpr.org/>.