Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism
Northern California Membership Meeting
December 6, 2014
Notes: Ellen Schwartz; Facilitator: Barbara Blong
Sixteen attendees (not all at the same time).
Betty Brown reminded us that this group endorsed two campaigns, New Priorities Campaign will be holding a general meeting Dec 17 in Oakland, recommending another April 15 tax day Global Day of Action against Military Spending. The Progressive Caucus of Congress holds a Jan-Feb retreat and comes up with an alternative federal budget, which is presented—and then voted down. The US Labor Against the War is urging the Progressive Caucus to collaborate in making the alternative budget a political issue. Other organizations are encouraged to participate.
The other campaign NCal CCDS endorsed is the AllCare Alliance, deals with Single Payer, making plans for bringing it to legislation. The California Health Professionals Student Alliance is leading the AllCare Alliance in plans for a rally in Sacramento in spring, 2015, in support of the Lara bill, which would extend health coverage to undocumented immigrants. Again, other organizations are encouraged to participate.
LEFT UNITY DISCUSSION
Michael Kaufman opened the discussion, speaking about the elections. Ellen said there is no unity on the left around elections, Michael said while that is true, but he believes there is wide agreement among the electorate around what kind of systems they want – in many states that voted by large margins to increase the minimum wage, voters also voted in the most reactionary candidates. Where there were resolutions for or against Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision was rejected by around 70%; people are conscious of the need to rein in corporate power. In Wisconsin Citizens United was defeated but Scott Walker was elected governor; in Florida the same and a crook was elected governor. This points to a progressive majority in the American population. Every Progressive Caucus member won re-election and expanded by two people.
So why did all the reactionaries get reelected? The Democrats ran very weak campaigns, though they spent more money than the Republicans, they did not attack racism or put forth progressive campaigns. Only 1/3 of the eligible population voted.
We need to know if we can go into the white communities and speak to white people about racism if we are to overturn the racism in this country.
Is the electoral system something we can work with, or is it hopelessly broken and corrupt?
Betty Brown asked if the Republican wins were because voters wanted to punish the Democrats.
Mel Pritchard said that in his experience, at the local level is where we can be most effective. San Francisco has been a progressive bastion but has been moving to the right. Gentrification is changing the character of the city. Who controls the Board of Supervisors is something that should concern us. There are reactionaries even among Democrats, who are into education “reform”. Community College is that last place people can get access; UC and CSU are becoming more and more unaffordable. Locally is where we can play a role.
Bruce Langley said he is concerned about the treatment of the word “political” – in many groups he is told not to bring up “political issues.” Rise of NGOs has pulled off many potential activists, who are working corporate hours and don’t have time to organize outside.
Barbara Blong talked about housing and added she also has experience of what happens if you work for an NGO, you get sucked into the corporate world, doing the bidding of the state, and doing it on the cheap. Others agreed with this observation.
Betty Brown pointed out that in the last election Californians voted for reform of mass incarceration. Churches had phone banks in support of Prop 47.
Steve Willett said we need to tackle the structural problems of our electoral system. The effect of money in elections makes our elections undemocratic; we need to work on making them democratic. CCDS needs to work on that, not just on figuring out what candidates to endorse. There can be some effect at the local level, but it’s less and less possible to affect outcomes at the state level.
Barbara Ruffner asked what are the base causes and what are the symptoms? Is it Citizen’s United? Are schools not turning out people who can think for themselves?
Steve: the root cause is capitalism, but if we are interested in making some kind of peaceful transition to socialism we need to address electoral reform.
Ellen: that is true, but because reform of the electoral system would make it possible to elect candidates reflecting the progressive majority, we would find much resistance to accomplishing that. Yes, as hard to achieve electoral reform as to achieve socialism.
Barbara Blong: people are ruled by fear.
Mel: third parties are withering away, so we must fight for the soul of the Democratic Party.
Betty talked about the situation in Contra Costa County and the Richmond Progressive Alliance. Sierra Club endorsed the progressive candidates. A lot of people have blamed voter turnout for some of the results, including in Richmond. In Richmond, 49% of registered voters voted, which was less than in the last midterm election. But in Richmond, there were huge billboards attacking Gayle McLaughlin, promoting the “Chevron candidates”.
Michael asked if we can we move our unions to consider more than just members benefits, but also benefit to their families. Can we have an influence on the youth that are rising up against police crimes, police brutality, and the legal system that defends the police. These are issues that CCDS needs to think about, orienting ourselves toward people’s movements so we can put forth our own candidates, instead of having to rely on liberal Democrats.
Our weakness is that we can’t talk to people who disagree on whether to back Democrats.
Mel talked about people today; they are not socialists, they are anarchists, see the state as the enemy, want nothing to do with electoral politics. He wouldn’t have been able to accomplish anything if he didn’t have a grounding in Marxism. If we don’t have clarity about the system, we won’t be able to make any changes.
Discussion of the rise of the “Precariat” – (portmanteau word of “precarious” “proletariat”) – people with no job security, housing, food.
LEFT UNITY: NATIONAL LEVEL
Steve had been asked to talk about what is going on at National CCDS around left unity, which is much under discussion. At the last Convention, we had a School attached to the convention attended by many young people, many from DSA. And recently another school held in New York, called the Carl Bloice Institute. At the SOA Watch demonstrations, CCDS has been participating for many years, with a table, but this year the table was under the banner of the Online University of the Left, which is a left unity educational effort of CCDS. There were people from many different groups at the demonstration, even though it was smaller than usual.
Steve handed out the first draft of Carl Davidson’s 8-point platform for left unity.
There are new, young left organizations coming into being. One such is LeftRoots, started by relatively young, very diverse people who are frustrated with trying to move NGOs to implement a progressive agenda. They have a “Movement Assessment Tool” for assessing the political situation in one’s local area. It’s not available online: they send the link to people.
Question of bringing together the left, which has become so fragmented, has become crucial. Bhaskar Sunkara of Jacobin magazine characterized us as being the only “old left” organization which is more interested in building new organizations than building itself.
Ellen presented the idea that we shouldn’t spend time agonizing about why we (CCDS) are not younger, more diverse, but rather, we should support the organizations of younger more diverse people.
Mel disagreed. When he was in San Diego, he was mentored by a kind of network of older white people. It is wrong to say we should let the young people just do their thing; they need our experience.
Barbara B: how, locally, can we do this education? The Online University. Carl Davidson has sought out people to be the virtual faculty, from a wide range of organizations on the left.
Barbara R: people-to-people is the only way to organize.
Michael urged us to go to the www.leftroots.org website; they are soliciting two kinds of membership. Cadre members and “compa” membership which is aimed at people more like us, able to give some money and support. CCDS & DSA chapters in Atlanta have merged and meet together.
Steve pointed out the coalition that came together to build the climate rally in Oakland, attended by 4000 people; about 30-40 people met every few weeks to plan the rally, definitely a left unity project. Very explicit anti-capitalist speakers.
Michael Kaufman moved that The Northern California CCDS confirm and support the steps for left unity that are taking place nationally, and locally, specifically, to contact the left organizations in our communities and propose steps toward joint projects and/or unity. Ellen Schwartz seconded.
Michael added that he did not intend this to be limited to the three or four organizations that have been approached in the past, but ones not part of our history, Trotskyist organizations, Maoist organizations. Contact the local chapters of national organizations.
Discussion of OCCUPY movement, had potential of being a mass movement. Barbara Ruffner recommends the book “The Leaderless Revolution” by Scott Carne, about Occupy Wall Street.
Doug meant we should try to get left organizations together into a real mass movement. Steve clarifies; that we should think beyond organizations of the Old Left.
Michael adds that in the list of organizations he named in explaining his resolution, he would include OCCUPY, anarchist groups.
Barbara R says let the Coordinating Committee decide. Steve says it’s about working together, so we should try and see who wants to work with us.
Mary Eleiezar says many of her friends are Democrats, working to make Democratic party more progressive, could we work with them? Steve says hedoesn’tthinkk the Democratic Party would be interested in working with us. But Susan S. says some Democratic Clubs support, for instance, work with the Richmond Progressive Alliance. So all is fair.
Resolution passed by acclamation.
AMENDMENTS TO CONSTITUTION or BYLAWS
No amendments to Constitution or Bylaws were proposed.
Susan Chacin asked for our endorsement of Feb 7 Oakland statewide action “March for Real Climate Leadership” - mainly organized by 350.org and California Coalition Against Fracking, and 200 organizations. Steve Willett seconded. Passed by acclamation.
MarchforClimateleadership.org (perhaps). Ellen to send in our endorsement.
Nominated for Treasurer: Ellen Schwartz
Nominated for Coordinating Committee:
Cathy Hodge McCoid
Steve moved that we let the Coordinating Committee select a chair and a secretary.
Ellen seconded. Approved by acclamation.
Since we have fewer people nominated than there are positions to fill, Steve moved that we elect the slate by acclamation. Betty seconded. Agreed by acclamation.
Special order of business, to nominate Marilyn Albert to the Coordinating Committee. Barbara R seconded. Approved by acclamation.
Next meeting of Coordinating Committee: December 20, 2014
Disposition of the minutes of this meeting. Northern California CCDS Bylaws, amended 1/12/2013, Article IX, states:
Minutes of Membership Meetings
Section 1. The minutes of each Membership Meeting can be approved by a majority vote of the newly elected Coordinating Committee. A draft of the minutes should be presented at the next regularly scheduled Coordinating Committee meeting following the Membership Meeting. The draft should be available to any member of the organization who wants to review the minutes prior to their approval. The minutes should be approved at the next Coordinating Committee meeting after the draft is presented and thereafter be made available to any member.