Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Joyous Celebration of the CPML’s First Anniversary

First Published: The Call, Vol. 7, No. 24, June 19, 1978.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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“Today is like an acclamation. The Party is saying: ’We’re here, we’re ready, we’re willing! Here’s the work we’ve already done.’ The more the Party is involved in the struggles of the people, the sooner we’ll be able to have our socialist revolution.”

This was the comment of an older Afro-American woman who had traveled 16 hours to Chicago to celebrate the First Anniversary of the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist). Active in the struggle against the Klan, she came to salute a party born in struggle.

Many of the 1,200 people who attended the June 11 anniversary program were activists like this woman. Workers of all nationalities, they came from over 40 cities and towns, including the Hawaiian Islands. They came from overseas, from as far away as Azania, Norway, Austria, Sweden, and Puerto Rico. They came to learn about the Party’s accomplishments and its shortcomings. Most of all, they came to celebrate.

The celebration lasted all day. It began at noon with a People’s Arts Festival that featured hundreds of paintings, photographs, poems and other works sent in from all over the country. At 2:00 P.M., the program began.


Amid cheers and chants, Eileen Klehr, vice-chairman of the CPML, introduced the speakers and cultural groups: veteran fighters like Odis Hyde; representatives of the people’s fightback, including rank-and-file miner Walter Lawson; Mary Smith from the National Fight Back Organization; and Communist Youth Organization Chairman Roy Smith.

Highlights of the program were addresses by CPML Chairman Michael Klonsky and by Pal Steigan, chairman of the Workers Communist Party of Norway (M-L). The Party’s unity with anti-imperialist struggles around the world was also reflected in a solidarity message from Henry Isaacs of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania. After dinner, the Azanian Singers and Dancers recreated through sound and movement the heroic struggle of their people.

Along with the celebration came tears, recalling the bitterness of life under imperialism. Mary Smith, described the system which destroyed her eyesight in one of its factories and then threw her out on the street. At the time she met the Fight Back, she had spent a week where “tea and crackers were all that sat on my table.” The audience wept for Janet Sloan, who was killed at Sun Shipyard one week after the Party’s founding, and for the other victims of capitalist greed.

But mostly, as the Liberator Singers from Boston, said, “If you happen to see a few tears, they’ll be tears of joy, proud hearts, happy hearts.” The joy was everywhere, bursting out in spontaneous chants, often in Spanish: “Esta lucha necesita un Partido Comunista!” “Long Live the CPML!”

It came from the speakers, like Nellie Lawson, a longtime activist, who brought a message from her mother, veteran communist Nanny Washburn. “This is the greatest day of my life,” Mrs. Lawson said, “One, to be part of the first anniversary of the CPML. Two, to be the daughter of a revolutionary fighter.”

The audience shared the great respect for this woman’s mother, a white Southern worker, who has dedicated her life to building unity between white and minority workers in order to overthrow the system that oppresses them all.

“It makes me mad,” Nanny Washburn wrote in her message, “to think of how they brought the Afro-American people here in chains to be chattel slaves for the white man. It makes me angry for them stealing the Indians’ land and putting them on reservations and murdering them.” To end this murder, she declared, “what we need is a CPML to lead the masses.”

Veteran comrades made their presence felt throughout the program. Harry Haywood, who is visiting China, also sent a written greeting. Addressing his old comrades from the CPUSA, Haywood made this appeal: “You who still believe in socialism, you who hate the treachery of the Gus Hall clique which destroyed our old Party, once again we urge you to rally to the CPML, the only real communist party in the U.S.A., the kind of party of which we were once proud.”


Then there was Odis Hyde. The 71-year-old Afro-American, deeply moved by the tremendous response shown him by the audience, described the great significance of the gathering ”for the millions of dispossessed and bleeding people, struggling through the concrete jungle of the most monstrous social organization built by the minds of fiends.”

One veteran fighter was a surprise guest–Jim Garland, an activist in the coalfields from the age of 13. “When we found out that this man was here,” said Eileen Klehr, “we told him it wouldn’t be right for him to come all this way without singing a song.” The song was Garland’s famous 1932 “Ballad of Harry Sims.” about a 19-year-old communist miner who was shotdown by company goons.

In a still powerful voice, Garland paid tribute to his friend Sims. The song’s message echoed the theme of the entire day: for the murder of this “youth of courage,” we must “sink this rotten system in the deepest pits of hell.”

The vitality of the youth was also very visible. Roy Smith brought the house down with his solidarity message. Recalling for the audience Fred Hampton and those at Jackson and Kent State who had been “butchered on the altar of almighty capital,” Smith described why the CYO was celebrating the founding of the CPML: “This is the best guarantee that in our lifetime we will have that better world these children died for.”


Joy at the birth of the CPML was shared by the many foreign guests at the anniversary. Pal Steigan described the importance for workers and oppressed people all over the world of the “historic victory of reestablishing the communist party in one of the two imperialist superpowers.

“Just like Mao Tsetung, our Party has a great respect for the proletariat in the United States,” Steigan continued. “Once this force is unleashed under the leadership of its vanguard, the CPML, it will sweep away the rotten and decadent capitalist system and create a bright new U.S.A. of the people.”

Steigan was enthusiastically greeted with chants of “A-K-P-M-L.” the Norwegian initials for his party. As a sign of the friendship between the two parties, Steigan presented a painted banner made for this year’s May Day rally in Oslo. Bold letters in Norwegian proclaim, “Workers and oppressed peoples, unite!”

Proletarian internationalism characterized every aspect of the program. Huge red banners in English and Spanish called for support of the struggles of the third world peoples and self-determination for all oppressed nations. Messages from about 30 fraternal parties and organizations in countries around the world hailed the Party’s birthday.

At the program’s end, 1,200 people rose to sing the Internationale in English and Spanish. “It gives me goose bumps to see people from so many different nationalities together,” one Puerto Rican man commented.


Internationalism in the work of the CPML was also evident from the experiences of workers interviewed by The Call. “I’m from Guatemala, and I know about the struggle from when I was back home,” one woman, a hotel worker remarked. “I say we can’t be humiliated by imperialism anymore. It’s time for us to stand up, and I think the CPML is doing a very good job in organizing us here.”

Summing up the Party’s work over the past year. Chairman Klonsky reiterated the CPML’s dedication to organizing the people’s fight against the system. “Our Party has no reason for being,” he exclaimed, “except to wage class struggle.”

Klonsky referred to the victories of the young Party, born after years of struggle against revisionism and various forms of opportunism. The founding of the CPML has helped discredit many “pretenders to the name of the Party,” he pointed out, who have all “slithered into the anti-China swamp, playing the Trotskyite game of loving socialism everywhere but where it exists.”


At the same time, the trend toward uniting genuine Marxist-Leninists has grown, as evidenced by the formation of the Committee to Unite Marxist-Leninists, jointly initiated by the August 29th Movement, the CPML and I Wor Kuen.

The CPML chairman also acknowledged the shortcomings of the Party and the huge tasks that face it. Walter Lawson had called on the CPML to take leadership of the United Mine Workers and all the other unions away from the labor bureaucrats. Klonsky reminded the audience that the Party shares this goal, but much work remains to be done.

“Even when the working and oppressed peoples are being thrown out on the streets by the hundreds of thousands with no hope of getting jobs.. the trade union movement is still shackled by these corrupt misleaders.”

Nonetheless, there was much to celebrate in this first year of the Party’s work. The anniversary program was an excellent reflection of the CPML’s multinational character and its growing ties among the masses.

“It was one year ago that I started learning about the CPML,” one Afro-American woman commented, “when we went petitioning for Gary Tyler. That showed me their overall concern for Blacks, and that’s important to me. The Call impressed me more than anything because it showed me it’s important to put the blame on the system and not the white man. I feel like today is my anniversary, too.”

The people expressed their respect for the Party by sending in the massive display of artwork, which reflected the day-today struggles of the oppressed masses. The People’s Art Festival filled an entire room.


The arts festival was only one example of how the Party anniversary inspired the development of the people’s culture. There were performances by three musical groups in the afternoon–a group of classical musicians brought together especially for the event; Terpsicore, a Dominican singing and poetry group from New York; and Liberator Singers from Boston. All three combined tremendous talent with the message of revolution.

And topping it off was the unforgettable performance by the Azanian Singers and Dancers, generating the spirit of resistance with their music.

It was a glorious ending to a glorious day. For some, it was the first experience with communism. Others, ready to make the commitment, resolved to become members of the CPML themselves; still others continued to have questions about the Party, but felt they had learned from it.

Almost without exception, they were profoundly moved by the day’s events, and more optimistic that revolution will succeed.