Dearest friends,

Some of you have heard that I resigned last month from the National Board and National Committee, so I’m writing to explain.

​Fifteen years ago we began a long-overdue process of change and renovation of the Party. Unfortunately, deep-seated resistance was a drag on that process, every step of the way. This would be a very long letter if I gave even a few examples of the problem, so I won’t do that, because in the end, my biggest concern boils down to whether the organization itself is viable.

​I am convinced, after 35 years in the Party, 29 of which were spent working full time, that it cannot be built because we have not been able to adapt to new conditions.

​I make this heretical statement from the vantage point of someone whose jobs over those 29 years were almost always focused on the organization itself (NY Organization Secretary, NY District Organizer, National Organization Secretary).

​We tried many, many things — we tried everything! From the basic approach of asking members to “recruit” people they worked with in movements, unions and neighborhoods, ​to public  spokespeople whose job it was to promote and grow the Party​, to ​street recruiting and​ making it possible to sign up online, we tried everything. I think we tried very hard​.

​We engaged in endless discussions about how to get our ​members to recruit others. Because hardly anyone recruited — full timers and a few other brave souls were the exception. ​Yet instead of criticizing people for this lack of recruiting results (or making excuses for it), we should have examined it. Instead of looking at the reluctance of all of those comrades (often the best members, the most active in “mass work”), and concluding that maybe they were onto something, we told ourselves over and over that all we had to do was convince them otherwise, and we’d grow.

The culture of seeing the world through rose-​colored glasses; of calling the glass half full when in fact it is just leaking; of denial of reality, is very strong in the Party. And perhaps some of it was unavoidable, and maybe even served a purpose, given what we’re up against.

​But here we are, in 2015, and that culture is so powerful that we will not admit what is absolutely true and completely obvious: we are tiny, we are shrinking, we are aging, fast, and this has been the direction for decades. People may like us, they may tell us privately that they think we’re the greatest activists and organizers, but they very rarely join and most of those who do become like the rest of us – reluctant to claim and build the organization.

Bernie S​anders’ popularity does not alter in any way the negative connotations of the words “communism” and “Communist Party.” As a matter of fact, his popularity is an argument in favor of changing our name; in favor of trying to create an organization that reflects and represents the values he talks about and to which people are attracted.
I have been pushing for such big changes, first and foremost, in our name, but more than that. I’m for an entirely new formation with radical, democratic, egalitarian, humanistic, ecological, socialist politics; with an organizational culture that encourages innovation and experimentation, requires critical discussion and scrupulous realism, and prizes collectivity and transparency.

I think we need an organization that fits how people live, work, think and feel today, which is so profoundly different from even a decade, let alone a century, ago.

As I said, though we started this process of change quite a long time ago, too many resisted it, including, or maybe even especially, those in leadership. For all kinds of reasons it has been incredibly hard for people to set ​aside their personal feelings about this, about our history, about the heroic and priceless contributions we can rightly claim as ours, to the struggle for peace, equality and justice.

​And believe me, I have those attachments too, starting with pride in my own family’s history; in ​my uncles, one of whom went to jail during the McCarthy period, another who fought the fascists in Spain, and another who chose prison rather than going to Vietnam. I am proud of my parents who stood by him and protested that war; who were in Washington when Dr. King made his I Have a Dream speech and participated in the Civil Rights movement, and who supported me (including at times financially) when I decided to work full time for the Party. I have been proud to call myself a Communist since I was 20 years old, and it’s how I chose to be known by everyone in my life, almost all my life.

​But now I have concluded that since I don’t believe the Communist Party can be built, and that a very different kind of organization is needed, and since I can’t stand the culture of denial and what amounts to allowing something I value deeply – our politics – to go down the drain, I can no longer participate.
​A couple of years ago I sent a letter to people in the leadership, in which I argued that we should not only get rid of the name, but go further and initiate something new. I said we should take our irreplaceable essence — broad, thoughtful, strategic politics, our love of humanity, our Marxist method of analyzing and understanding the world, our integrity and working-class character — and create something new. We should be ready to join with others in the formation of a new left organization that fits today’s conditions and moves away from the political margins. Such an organization is desperately needed and would make a big contribution.

I also believe we could do this in a way that examined the past, honoring the good part, rejecting the bad, and learning from both.

However, that letter and countless other letters, discussions and meetings in which I’ve made this case, didn’t convince enough of you. My level of frustration has become damaging, to me and to you, many of whom I’ve know and loved and worked side by side with for decades. So I’m letting it go, and will find another way to participate in the struggle to right the many, many things that are wrong in this world of ours. I feel as passionately about that now as I ever did – maybe even more so.

All the best,