Chapter name issue:
Pay Fry's letter to the Metro DC CCDS
Letter from Metro DC CCDS
[After hearing our chapter was considering changing out name, Pat Fry, the national coordinator of CCDS wrote us a letter criticizing us. Her letter and our reply will appear in the next Corresponder as follows:] Timothy Johnson, the editor of the Corresponder wrote us:
The following correspondence was written as a resolution from the DC chapter of the CoC. However, we thought it was more suited to be printed under chapter correspondence. It was edited from a resolution format to an article, but none of the relevant text has been changed. (ed)
Leadership in CCDS can be improved. The leadership should be encouraged to promote the work and growth of the organization. The guidelines for this should be based on the promotion of democracy, respect, and dialogue and the avoidance of sectarianism, disrespect of members and personally hostile criticism. Such an approach should more often begin with a, "Yes, let's talk" than a, "No, you are wrong!"
As an example of detrimental leadership, consider the impact of Pat Fry's letter of June 16, 1999 sent to the Metro DC CCDS chapter. This letter has greatly upset members of the chapter and hurt local organizing in a very real way. This was not necessary and should be corrected.
As this letter was sent to the chapter and the members of the National Executive Committee, the chapter feels its rebuttal must be sent not only to Pat Fry, the National Coordinator, but at the very least, the members of the NEC and National Coordinating Committee.
The content of the letter and the rebuttal follows:
[Pay Fry's letter to the Metro DC CCDS]
June 16, 1999
This letter is written to follow up on a discussion at the New England/East Coast Regional meeting held in Boston on May 15. At that meeting, Walter Teague reported that your local CCDS was discussing the idea of changing the name of your local organization. The reason he gave was what he described as an overwhelmingly conservative environment in Washington, D.C.
I must say that this characterization of Washington, D. C.- a city with a predominantly African American and working class population is somewhat astonishing.
Be that as it may, I wanted to raise additional concerns. The by-laws of our organization clearly govern all state and local organizations of the Committees of Correspondence. State and local organizations may adopt local bylaws provided they do not conflict with the bylaws of the national organization. A name change of your local CCDS organization would be in violation of these provisions.
As you know, the issue of a name change of the national organization has been discussed at various times in the past. Several months after
our last convention, the National Coordinating Committee voted to add a subtext to our name, "For Democracy and Socialism." This was voted upon by action of the NCC between conventions in order to distinguish ourselves publicly from the right-wing Committees of Correspondence, which Jesse Helms had just begun launching. A proposal to support the NCC decision will be formally put to a vote at the August national convention in the form of an amendment to the bylaws.
If your local CCDS wishes to propose a name change for the national organization, it also should be submitted in the form of an amendment to the bylaws. Amendments require a majority vote by the national convention. The deadline for submitting resolutions and bylaw amendments is July 10 for publication in the Corresponder. Publication in the next Corresponder would meet the bylaw requirement for advance notice: "Advance notice of proposed amendments to the bylaws shall be given to all members of the CCDS in a timely fashion."
Please accept this letter in the comradely spirit in which it is written. I hope all is going well in your local organizing efforts for the national convention. See you in Raleigh!
In Unity and struggle,
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[Letter from Metro DC CCDS]
July 8, 1999
To Pat Fry, National Coordinator
Our local committee members receiving your letter dated June 16, 1999 and addressed C/O Glenn Morrison, were surprised by its tone and content and decided we must respond to minimize the harm done.
Clearly you have misunderstood our concern and position on matters relating to organizing our chapter. Your statement that at the May 15th, Regional meeting I [Walter Teague] gave the "overwhelmingly conservative environment of Washington D.C." as the primary reason for our considering changing the name of our chapter is neither accurate, nor very relevant, and doesn't fit the content of the minutes you published of that meeting. But most egregious of all, it is a slanderous misuse of racial and class innuendo.
Note that in the minutes of the May 15th, Regional meeting you describe me as saying "[We] need [a] new name for chapter which will explain what we are about." This was accurate.
We who live and work in and around Washington, D.C. are well aware of its demographics and as political activists are also very aware of the political strengths and trends in this area. It was primarily because the current name of the chapter does not convey to anyone what we are about, nor is it easily understood or remembered, that we wanted to come up with a more useful, relevant and distinctly helpful name. The conservative nature of power and perception in Washington, D.C. is something we here are all have to very clear about. That does not mean there are not many liberal and progressive groups and tendencies in Washington, DC and the surrounding area, unfortunately, they are the minority in power.
As to the "legality" and by-laws issues your raise, we choose the name we are currently using and did not consult with you nor see any need to obtain prior approval from the convention or whomever. All of our members who have attended at least one or more past conventions are in agreement that was common knowledge and understanding that local chapters could and did organize whatever political work and projects they thought best and it was repeatedly stated that local chapters could add to or use additional names as local needs suggested. It was our clear understanding that we could adopt or change our chapter name to facilitate such organizing. We distinctly remember this being endorsed at a number of meetings and that the spirit was to allow locals to determine how best to organize locally.
To suggest as you do in your letter that our chapter's reasons, as you quote me, are based on a racist, concession to conservatism and a violation of by-laws, is not only false, but worse yet, it is an example of negative and counterproductive "leadership." Leadership, if it is to be helpful, needs to be reality based, communicative, respectful and supportive. This attacking letter is just the opposite of good leadership. If you believed what you wrote, why didn't you say something to us before publishing a letter couched and armored in the authority of National Coordinator and sent to the NEC? If this is your idea of dialogue, why not open this subject to the membership at large and not selectively prejudge and condemn our supposed transgressions.
Your history of the reasons for the national's considering changing the name of CCDS is also at best inaccurate. The importance of the addition of "For Democracy and Socialism" was not just because of Jesse Helms' group, but as had been pointed out many times before you discovered Helms' group, there were many other right wing groups who had been using the name for years. This was pointed out at the Convention in New York City, but apparently was not known at the time of the founding of CCDS. At the Convention in Chicago it was voted to change the name or improve it some how so it would be more relevant, useful and distinguished from right wing groups had been mounting for some years. However, at that time, parliamentary manipulations were used to keep the name the same. I and most of our chapter members are now glad and completely support the interim name addition and hope and expect it will be endorsed in August.
A careful reading of your letter does not allow us to "accept [it] in the comradely spirit in which it [was] written." A comradely spirit would not have produced such a letter. Pat Fry's letter is read by us as a threat and an attack and we believe it deserves an apology.
Walter Teague & Glenn Morrison
For the Metro DC CCDS Chapter
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