Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Size matters: the left needs a bigger audience

My last blog was from Corning, NY on my way to the Chautauqua Conference; this blog is also from Corning; in fact, I am in the same coffee shop and the same booth as I was two days ago. The difference is that I am returning to NYC, after speaking yesterday afternoon to nearly a full hall at Chautauqua.

A few observations, not necessarily in importance: well, for two nights I slept in the same small, but very comfortable, bedroom that Jonas Salk slept in decades ago, overlooking Lake Chautauqua. What a treat! And this morning I awakened to a "red" sunrise.

Chautauqua and the Chautauqua Conference go back nearly one hundred and thirty years and many prominent people, including Presidents have spoken there. It grew, I suspect, out of the larger self and social improvement movements of the 19th century. It has obviously evolved since then, but its staff works to continue its founding mission in a very different world.

Living in the village is almost an other worldly experience. Everything is so clean and beautiful - houses, flowers everywhere, lecture halls, amphitheaters, music and dance schools for young people, etc. I'm sure you have to deep pockets to spend your summer at Chautauqua, but the shame of it all is not that, but that such summer accommodations are not available for most working people and their families. Everyone I met was very friendly and open - and most were meeting a communist for the first time.

After finishing my lecture in a very ornate lecture hall, I could only think that the biggest problem for communists and other people on the left is not our message (The theme of my remarks was "The Communist Party: A Work in Progress in a Changing World), but the size of our current audience. When people have an opportunity to hear what our positions are on near and longer term issues, including socialism, they respond well. Some agree with our pitch and most are happy to hear what we think. And nearly all are surprised at how much our views clash with their image and perceptions of communists and socialism.

Thanks goodness for the Internet. For us and many other left organizations. it gives us an unprecedented means to reach an audience of millions. I will post my speech later this week.

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