CHICAGO — One of the Communist revolutionary’s eternal problems — making a living while also pursuing the socialist dream — was thrown into relief at the party’s national convention during a spirited discussion over the Green New Deal.
That the world stands on the precipice of catastrophe was a given among the roughly 300 delegates, and the Communist Party of the USA remains solidly behind the expensive plan to overhaul the global economy and its current reliance on fossil fuels and gas.
“It is important we not underestimate the fact we are facing a situation of mass extinction on this planet,” said Michael, a Communist from Houston who addressed the general session on “The US Working Class, Climate Change and the Green New Deal.”
He went on to discuss the “acidification of the ocean,” and even blamed the calamity of Hurricane Harvey that smashed into Houston and southeastern Texas in 2017 on global warming.
In the end, he said, mankind faces a stark choice between “socialism or mass extinction.”
It was difficult to capture speakers’ names, as they would line up behind two microphones set up in the middle of a hall at the University of Chicago-Illinois’ student center. Some would give their names once, more or less into the microphone, while others simply spoke.
Similar apocalyptic visions and firm conviction in the solutions socialism presents were echoed by the other participants, although many of them tempered their remarks with more prosaic concerns.
One such worry was how party members were supposed to go about agitating for the Green New Deal legislation while also earning the money to pay the bills, a quandary mentioned by more than one speaker as the CPUSA’s convention continued.
“Liberation theology is not about cleaning the planet,” said a Latina Roman Catholic sister who rose to the microphone. “Instead, people are concerned about where they will sleep, eat, get the money to pay bills and put gas in their car.”
A Hoosier Communist argued local problems should take precedence over a U.S.-led effort to change the planet’s climate.
“In Indianapolis we have a housing crisis, and it can’t be addressed the way capitalism builds houses,” he said.
Still, while several speakers wandered off the specific topic at hand, there appeared to be both unanimous approval of the CPUSA’s proposed statement of support, and of moves that might strike some other strands of America as drastic.
“It’s not too radical to be demanding universal mandatory retirement of all people working in the petro-chemical field,” Michael said, as delegates nodded thoughtfully. “That really shouldn’t even be controversial, an early retirement.”
As with coal production, which the CPUSA leadership thinks should be shut down immediately, all workers associated with the energy sector would have to be compensated in some fashion, Michael said.
An Illinois Communist, Lance, offered a simple solution: the workers, he said, should be “compensated at the same level using federal dollars taken from the rich and from corporations that become available once we get their boot off our neck.”
If the workers aren’t paid after losing their jobs, Lance surmised, “it’s going to be very difficult.”
Joshua Morris, a Communist who said he was sitting at a table with representatives from Michigan and Georgia, differed.
The Green New Deal “does not necessarily mean eradication of jobs across whole sectors,” Mr. Morris said.
Nevertheless, he deplored the nation’s mood, which he drew in sharp contrast to that he said existed at the end of the 20th century, and urged Communists to focus energies there.
“It’s important to combat this hopelessness, this general malaise people seem to have developed toward the topic,” Mr. Morris said. “Earlier, there was an urgency and bipartisan agreement on this that has faded and needs to be brought back.”
As the discussion came to a close, an energetic Communist on the dais grabbed a microphone and tried to stoke such urgency, leading the CPUSA members in a growing chant.
“Same struggle, same fight!” they chanted. “Climate justice, workers’ rights!”
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