A turning point moment to save people and planet
Activists push an inflatable globe during a "Global March" as part of the People's Summit for Social and Environmental Justice in Defense of the Commons, a parallel event during the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 20, 2012. | Felipe Dana / AP

This is part 1 of the full main report, “Unity to save people and planet: For full equality, democracy, peace, and green socialism,” which was delivered to the 31st National Convention of the Communist Party USA held in Chicago, Ill., June 21-23, 2019. Other installments available here. The abbreviated oral presentation is available here.

John Bachtell served as CPUSA national chair from 2014 to 2019. Rossana Cambron and Joe Sims were elected as the new CPUSA co-chairs at the Chicago convention.

Welcome delegates and guests! Welcome and warm greetings to international guests! And welcome to our livestream audience!

Welcome to our 100th birthday party! We’re feeling rambunctious and just getting started!

We gather at a pivotal moment. The very existence of people and our planet are in peril.

Humanity, all life forms, and nature face unprecedented, interrelated, and unsustainable global challenges: climate and ecological crises, rampant militarization, an escalating war danger with Iran and in the Middle East, including nuclear war, and a crisis of wealth extremes.

We face the instability and unpredictability of a crisis-ridden and predatory capitalist system, made more chaotic with the Trump trade wars.

We face unpredictable economic and social disruption brought on by the new phase of the scientific-technological-communications revolution, including robotics and artificial intelligence.

We face a lawless, lying, climate-denying occupant of the White House, who has brought on a democratic and constitutional crisis, and a global extreme right and levels of wealth concentration that threaten democracy everywhere.

These crises intersect, converge, and compound one another. They must be addressed globally and simultaneously, on a scope and scale that meets the challenges.

Together, the solutions—transitioning to a green and demilitarized economy, funded through radical wealth redistribution and a reallocation of military spending; international working-class solidarity; and global political and economic cooperation—are a basis for the unity of the overwhelming majority of people in our country.

These are radical solutions that will require the greatest mobilization of people and resources our country and planet have ever known.

We have witnessed enormous changes in the past few decades. But they pale in comparison to the changes, challenges, and upheaval now bearing down on us.

The democratic upsurge

For many, this is a moment of despair. A moment of fear and insecurity. A moment of scapegoating and division.

But this is also a turning point moment. A time of growing unity, of democratic and transformative upsurge profoundly impacting politics and mass thinking.

Millions are turning to each other and rising to fight. We are marching, voting, and organizing to oust Trump and the extreme right wing, determined to defend democratic rights and rescue our shared planet and future.

Millions are challenging the basic ideas and institutions of white supremacy, patriarchy, and the capitalist system itself.

Our multi-racial working class—in alliance with the African-American, Latinx, Asian-American, Native American, and other communities of color, women, youth, organized labor, and the environmental justice and other social movements—are finding hope in community, unity, and struggle.

We’re the ones, this broad democratic alliance, that we’ve been waiting for. And we’re the ones who will lead the fight to expand democratic rights and save the planet. And we’re the ones who will bring into being a radically new kind of society free of exploitation, hate, and inequality.

Just a few weeks ago, Chicago’s first African-American woman and first openly gay mayor took office. Lori Lightfoot’s landslide victory was made for this moment. It was a repudiation of the legacy of corrupt machine politics, of racial division, police brutality, and of corporate looting that has made this an increasingly unaffordable city.

And something else shook this city: the election of six socialists to the city council. Now that’s a demand for change!

As part of the massive national voter upsurge in November 2018, voters in this state ousted a right-wing governor who had spent four years obstructing change.

It’s a new day in Illinois. The new governor and legislature raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour, voted to place a referendum on the ballot for a progressive tax and legalized recreational marijuana, expunging the criminal records of nearly 800,000 residents.

People in Chicago and Illinois are not waiting to see what the newly-elected officials enact. Grassroots movements are organizing to demand a people’s agenda.

People-powered victories here and elsewhere show the political ground is shifting, that organized labor and other people’s movements can elect our own and impact politics.

The crisis is local and global

Not far away from here, in the Lawndale neighborhood, a mother grieves for her son killed by gun violence. This is intolerable, and communities and families of victims of gun violence are marching to end it.

In Parkland, Virginia Beach, Las Vegas, and Pittsburgh, mass shootings are claiming hundreds of lives, invading even what was thought to be the safest of spaces—our schools and places of worship. Millions are demanding common-sense gun control and the outlawing of assault weapons.

What unites both struggles is opposition to gun manufacturers obsessed with maximizing profits and blocking every effort to regulate weapons and reduce the flood of guns. At long last, the tide appears to be turning.

Not far away, the criminal police murder of Laquan McDonald is still being grieved by his parents and the community. Movements for civilian control of the police and ending police murders and brutality committed against African-American and Latino residents exploded in response and continue to grow, electing district attorneys accountable to the people.

In Little Village, a Dreamer and their family fear a knock on the door by ICE. These families are criminalized and terrorized. This is outrageous, and communities are organizing to defend immigrants and block deportations.

Outgoing CPUSA National Chair John Bachtell addresses the 31st National Convention of the Communist Party USA in Chicago, June 2019. | Al Neal / PW

Tens of thousands of immigrant families are criminalized for fleeing violence and poverty, detained in concentration camps, and an unknown number have died. Children and babies are being ripped from parents, forced to endure neglect and misery. This is inhumane, immoral, and people of goodwill everywhere are fighting to stop it.

In neighboring states like Indiana and Missouri, women seeking an abortion and medical workers who perform them are criminalized. Meanwhile, mass movements are ensuring reproductive rights are protected and expanded in Illinois, Nevada, Vermont, California, and other states.

Somewhere a young person is fearful of coming out because an LGBTQ classmate was bullied or a transgender person murdered. But the LGBTQ community and their allies have won expanded democratic rights and led a revolution in social attitudes.

All across this city, families are forced to choose between food and rent. This is outrageous, and the fight for a living wage has led to municipalities and states passing measures for a $15 minimum wage.

Newly-graduated students from this very university [University of Illinois, Chicago] wonder if their lives will be spent in servitude paying off student loans. They and their parents are burdened with enormous debt. I know. I’m one. Cancellation of student debt and a free college education is now advocated by presidential candidates.

Chicago is like so many cities. Downtowns prosper while working-class neighborhoods face neglect. Property taxes and rents are too damn high, driving working-class families, especially African Americans, out. Movements for affordable housing and tenants’ rights are growing here, in New York City, and across the country.

While this administration dismantles the Environmental Protection Agency and puts polluters in charge of regulating themselves, states and cities are declaring their commitment to the Paris Climate Accords, and the Green New Deal has bolted into the national discussion.

While the GOP passes one voter suppression law and adopts one more gerrymandered map after another, voters in states like Michigan and Florida are expanding voting rights and defending democracy.

Our nation and the world face enormous challenges, and people everywhere are rising.

The CPUSA celebrates 100

The Communist Party USA, 100 years young and going strong, is an essential part of every movement. We believe the moment calls for a much larger CPUSA, a working-class-based party of socialism.

We are in the fight of our lives.

The crises facing humanity are rooted in the predatory system of global capitalism, the capitalist mode of production, and drive for maximum profits. They beg the question: What comes first? People and nature or corporate profits?

As Dr. W.E.B. DuBois famously penned when joining the CPUSA: “Capitalism cannot reform itself. It is doomed to self-destruction. No universal selfishness can bring social good to all.”

We are fighting for a new society of majority rule; economic and political democracy; full racial and gender equality; a society based on solidarity, community, and cooperation; a society without classes, prisons, walls, and borders.

We seek a humane, peaceful society in harmony with nature, in which the working class enjoys the full fruit of its labors.

This is our vision. This is our mission. This is why we are here.

The moment may be dangerous and sometimes feel dark. But the fire of human liberation grows. And we have unshakable confidence in the power of working-class and human solidarity; the power of global socialist and communist unity; and the power of international solidarity and global cooperation to save planet and people and ensure the future.

Continued in part 2: Planetary emergency: the climate crisis and nuclear danger threaten the existence of humanity and nature


John Bachtell
John Bachtell

John Bachtell is president of Long View Publishing Co., the publisher of People's World. He is active in electoral, labor, environmental, and social justice struggles. He grew up in Ohio, where he attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs. He currently lives in Chicago.