Ask a communist anything. No, really!

Ask a communist anything.  No, really!


Earlier this month, the editors of the Reddit forum r/politics invited CPUSA to do an “Ask Me Anything,” where users interact in real time.  Questions and comments ranged from celebrations of CPUSA as an American institution (“Is it true you all know all four stanzas of the Star-Spangled Banner?”) to acknowledgements of the anti-communism that remains a tool of the ruling class (“I’m a teacher… I sincerely wish you guys luck educating the public when we’re literally not allowed to say anything positive about it in school.”)  Here are some of our answers, along with a few questions we didn’t get to answer.


How do you prevent communist parties from devolving into the autocratic regimes they always have throughout history? It was my understanding that human nature doesn’t allow true communism to exist.

Joe Sims responds:

This is an important issue. Glad you raised it. First, we think that it’s important to recognize that socialism was first attempted in countries that did not have developed democratic institutions and civil society. That coupled with the challenges of war and intervention contributed to the lack of democracy which played a big role in the crimes during the Stalin period and socialism’s collapse.

It’s our view that you can’t have real socialism without democracy as defined by working class and people actually having control over decision making both in the economy and in the state.

For us, that means a socialist government must be a multi-party state. The supports what we call “Bill of Rights of Socialism,” a socialism that has at its center working class power and the bill of rights.

This is particularly true given the rise of the internet and social networks. The 24/7 news stream and the flow of information demands that the socialist and communist parties take a whole new approach to what this means in terms of governance and democracy. For us it means an emphasis on people’s power from below in decision-making, a free press and assembly, and as indicated above working class coalition of political parties that direct the state.

We do not believe in an immutable human nature that is incompatible with socialism.


Can you guys talk about the stance the Party has on race, misogyny, and class? It seems like many leftists want to abandon so-called “identity politics” for a pure class approach, but the history of the Party seems to suggest a different position. Thank you.

Chauncey Robinson responds:

 The CPUSA makes it a priority to point out that the fight against racism and sexism are KEY to the fight of the working class. It’s not separate and apart or some side issues that will be dealt with “after the revolution” as some might try to push for. The working class is constantly divided, purposefully by the capitalist class, by race, gender, sexuality, and so on. In order to utilize the maximum strength of working people these divisions HAVE to be fought against. And they are not fought against by telling those that are super exploited under capitalism (such as African Americans, women, immigrants, and so on) that they just need to put those grievances aside and focus on class.

First off, in doing that, we take away the voice of the marginalized and say their problems just aren’t as important to the “bigger picture” of class. This is a wrong move. A move like that does not grow our organization or the left, but further alienates us from the growing leadership of African Americans, women, immigrants, and so on who are leading the charge in many growing movements today. By acknowledging and fighting against the exploitation they face under this system we STRENGTHEN our fight as a whole. By dismissing those fights we only do the working class as whole a disservice and don’t move any closer to collective strength and unity.

Women are half of the population. How do we not prioritize their fight for control over their own bodies and equal pay? African Americans have been statistically proven to being one of the biggest supporters and advocates of unions. How do we not prioritize the fights against the continued cruel reality of racism in the U.S.?


If we don’t seek to prioritize the empowerment of what can be some of our strongest fighters in the seeking working class liberation then we’ve already lost the battle. Why not just become democrats? 3rd parties seem like a monumental waste of time to me particularly given that both parties aren’t equally bad (republicans are much MUCH worse) AND that 3rd parties would at best just split a liberal base allow the worse party (republicans) to make laws.

 Joe Sims responds:

You make some good points. The GOP is much worse, even while both parties subscribe to neoliberal policy – the GOP does with a vengeance. Still both are capitalist parties. Much of the labor movement, women, people of color, LGBTQ etc. operate within the framework of the Democratic Party.

That said, our party is a party of socialism: and our goal is bring about a socialist system in the U.S. We believe that it possible to do so peacefully by participating in the electoral and political process. Achieving this objective requires a political party that makes socialism its goal.

Needless to say, that is not the goal of the Democrats. At the same time we think that achieving socialism can only come about by participating in the day-to-day struggles of our working class and people. That means fighting for reforms, like raising the minimum , preventing climate change, supporting public education, universal healthcare etc. Thus, we share much in common with Democrats and independents (and maybe some confused GOPers) who support these aims. The point is you can’t go it alone. We have to fight together.

It’s going to be tough. And reforming the election laws to allow third parties to participate is key. That said, Bernie showed that there’s still a lot of room to operate within the framework of the Democratic Party. And we support that very much. We think a bit down the road we’ll need a third peoples party that will challenge both the GOP and the Democrats, a party that has defeating the big monopolies as its key objective.


It’s often been said that “there is no ethical consumption under capitalism”, that the only real way to avoid harming the laborers and marginalized is to go live off of berries in the forest. How does someone feeling guilty in a capitalist society (me, for instance) stay aware of injustice without self-flagellating?

Scott Hiley responds:

 I once heard someone say, in response to the accusation that buying a certain commodity was unethical, “Listen. If my purchasing decisions could change the world, I’d wouldn’t be a member of the working class.” Injustice and poverty and inequality don’t exist because working class people make poor decisions. They exist because they are engineered and maintained by the capitalist class–so let’s keep the blame where it belongs. That goes for jobs, too. Coal mining is environmentally destructive–but that’s not the miner’s fault, any more that a worker on an assembly line in a Boeing plant is guilty of supporting the arms industry. We do what we have to do to survive–including working for the abolition of capitalism.

Does the communist party believe in working within the current political system to benefit the workers? Also, I’m also from upstate NY. As someone just getting into communism what are more ways to get involved?

Scott Hiley responds: 

CPUSA absolutely believes in working within the current political system to benefit workers. Where else could we work, and what kind of communists would we be if we just sat on the sidelines preaching revolution? The working class is hurting here and now; our planet is being destroyed here and now; racism, sexism, homo- and transphobia happen here and now, and must be addressed under capitalism, even as we’re fighting something better. In fact, it’s in fighting for justice within the current political system that we build the strength to change it.

I’m also in upstate NY! As a communist, I do the same thing I would do as a progressive: attend rallies, write letters to the editor, call my reps, get out the vote, etc. But I also try to find ways to get people talking about politics–not in a preachy way, and not necessarily about who to vote for, but about stuff like jobs, wages, immigration, women’s rights. My area is really conservative, but I’ve actually had some good conversations with people who identify as conservatives, Republicans, etc.


I get a sense that the political influence of labor is diminishing in the U.S. and across the globe due to technological displacement. What is the strategy of CPUSA in response to this trend?

Chauncey Robinson responds:

 As we’ve been witnessing, the face of labor is growing and changing—by which I mean what has usually been pushed as the look of union workers and workers in general. We have seen through fights such as the Fight For 15 and a union, immigrant workers rights, and the like, that there are sections emerging in the leadership of these struggles that NEED to be part of the leadership of the labor movement. I’m speaking of Black women, women in general, and peoples of color. Many of which do not reside in jobs that have been known to be union types- such as the service and retail sector. In order for the labor movement to thrive there needs to be an expansion of what a union worker is, and a real push to train women, Black women, and other peoples of color to be leaders in the labor movement. This is because these populations are where the growing numbers of workers are finding themselves. There has to be a campaign to unionize these workers and place them in leadership to have their voice and strengths utilized. Yes technology is displacing people, but workers aren’t going anywhere, they’re still working, just some in different ways, and that collective power is still there as well if utilized. Workers’ best defense against the attacks of capitalism is still unions. There needs to be a fight to strengthen them, and part of that is redefining who resides and leads in them as well. Which I think we’re seeing lately as many unions have begun speaking out more against racism and sexism, and supporting The Fight for 15.


My question pertains to your general position on compromise policies like the ones we saw in the lead up to the Affordable Care Act. How does the Communist party view solutions like a public healthcare option, as opposed to a blanket “Medicare for all” approach? Also what role, if any, does the Communist party see in protecting private corporations? Would a president from CPUSA have supported the auto bailout, or FDIC banking protections?

Roberta Wood responds:

 I was not happy with the ACA when it was passed, with all its weaknesses. I would have greatly preferred single payer. By the way, though, single payer isn’t perfect. It does NOT take profit out of health care. I would prefer a socialized health care system, under democratic controls. That being said, the reality is that to change our healthcare system takes an act of Congress. The ACA, bad as it was, only squeaked thru Congress. To get it thru, horrible compromises were made to make pharma and other parts of the for profit medical businesses on board. But in retrospect, ACA with all its weaknesses was a big step forward because it established the principle of universal health care. A more advanced ground from which to struggle. If Obama had held out for the more perfect, single payer, for which a Congressional majority was not achievable, we would now be struggling from a much weaker position. It was that awful alliance with Big Pharma, who got on board for their own greedy reasons, that made the ACA victory possible.


Unfortunately, we weren’t able to answer all of the questions people had for us.  Here are some that stimulated our thinking.  Use the comments to let us know how you would respond!


What is the CPUSA’s stance on gun control and the second amendment? Despite being a rabid lefty in almost everything else, I oppose ridiculous California-style gun control.


What is the Communist Party USA’s stance on religious freedom? If it is different from the Soviet Union’s adoption of atheism, what do you think went wrong?


How are you going to make big corporations give up money and power and happily agree to a change as big as [replacing capitalism with socialism]?


Do you, or other Communists, experience unfair treatment because of your political beliefs?

    Chauncey K. Robinson believes that writing, in any capacity, should help to reflect the world around us, and be one of the tools to help bring about progressive change. Born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, she has a strong belief in people power and working class strength. As a social media content creator and writer for People's World she seeks to make sure that topics that affect working class people, peoples of color, and women are constantly in the spotlight and part of the discussion.
    Scott Hiley has taught French, literature, history, and philosophy at the high school, college, and post-graduate levels.  A member of CPUSA since 2010, he is active in struggles against austerity and for education justice and labor rights. His articles have appeared in the People's World (US), the Morning Star (UK), and l'Humanité (France). He lives in a rural town in upstate NY.
    Roberta Wood, Secretary-Treasurer of the Communist Party, is a retired journeyman industrial instrument mechanic. A lifelong union activist, she was a founding co-chair of the United Steelworkers District 31 Women's Caucus. She writes on labor issues for A Chicagoan, Roberta is married to Steelworker retiree Scott Marshall. Scott and Roberta have four daughters and seven grandchildren.

Comments (20)

Blake | September 27, 2018 at 1:44 PM

what is your position on healthcare immigration and foreign policy

Andrej | July 14, 2017 at 10:24 PM

Honour to labour comrades. Greetings from Slovakia! I must say it is very nice to see there are communists in America and more nice there are Trotskyist, i hope one day our both countries will live in utopic regime 😉

    Bryce Butt | December 10, 2017 at 8:35 PM

    Its hard to be a communist in a captalist society

Astrid, not putting last name | July 13, 2017 at 7:09 AM

I grow a little bit concerned as to the Party seemingly neglecting white males. I understand historically, yes they have been given privilege and everything, but how can one ignore such a major part of the population? A white male is less likely, yes, than an African American or Latino to be in an impoverished state, however there are still plenty of white families living in poverty. Why must they be ignored because of history? Surely a white male is to be given the same treatment and have the same people fight for him equally hard as an African American woman, right?

My best friend lives in a slum, and it is mostly white. Her father is an ex-navy veteran trying to run a business, which just makes things worse that they are in such a state, and her mother is a secretary. Why is it that I’ve seen over and over, the Party taking pride in defending the rights of this woman against rich capitalists, but never her father from the big businesses, and worse, I’ve never seen anything from the Party about protecting veterans.

I understand that there has historically been more of a struggle with women, African Americans, etc. however there is a large amount of people who think the radical left, communists and socialists, do not care about the white male. How do you explain this? Why does it seem our brothers are being ignored because of mistakes made by others in the past, who weren’t even them? Don’t we, as Americans, believe heriditary punishment is unconstitutional and morally wrong?

I do hope you can answer this, this is one of the main problems I have had with the Party so far. After all, if CPUSA is a party for the people, how can it ignore around 31% of the population? (

Please do answer, this is a public relations issue, I suppose I should call it, between the CPUSA and many voters. Does CPUSA ignore white males or does it fight for them too? If CPUSA does, why does it refuse to mention white males, ever? And if not, aren’t you fighting against your very principles of equality?

    Scott Hiley | July 13, 2017 at 1:27 PM

    We are a party of the whole working class, fighting for the interests of the whole working class across lines of race, national origin, sexual orientation, etc.

    We try to make our work, our leadership, and our program reflective of the diversity of the working class as a whole. In a society where people associate the term “working class” with the image of a white guy driving a pickup to a factory job, it takes some getting used to.

    So why do we pay so much attention to racism?Historically, capitalism in the United States has used racism as its main tool. The wealth that “primed the pump” for industrial capitalism was accumulated from slave labor. In the Reconstruction South, plantation owners used racism to turn poor whites against their Black neighbors–to keep them from joining forces against the ruling class. In the industrial heartland of the North, back when labor unions were still whites-only, factory owners would bring in Black workers to break strikes and keep wages down–once again, using racism to divide and weaken the working class. Fast forward to the 1980s and 90s: when conservatives wanted to gut public assistance, they started by racist stereotypes of Black “welfare queens” ripping off hardworking [white] taxpayers. Every time the ruling class wants to attack the working class (including white workers), it starts with racism. They get people so twisted around that they think it’s more important to keep Black people down than it is to bring everyone up.

    So if we’re serious about fighting capitalism, we have to uproot racism. As Marx himself said, “labor in the white skin will never be free while labor in the black skin is branded.” We’re not neglecting white workers–we’re calling them to stand up and fight racism as a central part of the struggle for liberation.

      Grace slick | August 19, 2017 at 3:13 AM

      I had to read your reply 3 times. I think you need to check history (and recent history). The left keeps minorities down, as the left needs “victims” to stay in power. Communism lifts NO ONE up, it only makes everyone equally miserable

        Scott Hiley | August 20, 2017 at 3:52 PM

        Hmmm. So women would be better off without the right to vote (which the left fought for), African-Americans would be better off without civil rights (which the left fought for), and we would all be better off without Social Security, unemployment insurance, a minimum wage, family leave, and health insurance (which the left fought for)? Welcome to the topsy-turvy world of conservatism, where helping is hurting, and we should let people suffer to make them strong. You’ll need better arguments than that. Also, telling someone to “read their history” doesn’t count as evidence for a claim.

Nosmo King | July 10, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Communism is a very logical idea. Unfortunately humans are not logical creatures. If we were all like Star Trek’s Mr. Spock, we would be communist without need for changes in government. However we are not like Mr. Spock. This reality cuts both ways. The wealthy SHOULD give up largess that they don’t need (which they often don’t), and the non-wealthy SHOULD do the right thing with the largess they receive (which they often don’t). Capitalism, with all of its admitted flaws, is ultimately the most fair system.

    Scott Hiley | July 13, 2017 at 1:48 PM

    One of the most common misperceptions about communists is that we sit down, dream up a model for a fair society, and then try to implement it. That’s not how we work.

    What we do, following Marx, is look critically at society, see how it is actually set up, and analyze how it develops and what it is likely to become. And what we see is that capitalism is deeply contradictory. We’ve reached a level of social organization where practically all production is collective. Manufacturing, education, banking, health care, logistics–all of it requires massive numbers of people working in an organized fashion within electronic systems that facilitate collaboration. But the wealth generated by that collective work is appropriated individually, not collectively. A small group of shareholders get the profits. This contradiction between collective work and individualistic appropriation is now acting as an obstacle to innovation and social development. Just look at things like lobbying and intellectual property litigation. Instead of putting resources into
    development, firms are forced to spend them on rent-seeking (getting and keeping control of resources).

    So yes, capitalism is horrid, savage, oppressive, etc–but at this late stage of its lifespan, it is also wasteful, self-destructive, and incapable of moving forward.

I prefer Not to be doxed | July 10, 2017 at 8:44 AM

You realized america is not a demacracy but a repesentive republic right

Jock James | July 07, 2017 at 3:10 PM

Can you point to one successful Communist run economy in which everyone has enough food, clothing, and are not living in squalor… oh, and good medical care? Just one? Is it still the promised land?

    Joe Sims | July 08, 2017 at 1:23 PM

    Actually the former Soviet Union qualified on that score – however there was a demonstrable lack of democracy. Today, Cuba despite the blockade and China qualify. In those countries, the basics of food, shelter, etc. are met. Clearly there is room for improvement including in my view on the issue of democracy, but the criteria as outlined are fulfilled. China in particular has rescued hundreds of millions from dire poverty.

Gary Mueller | July 03, 2017 at 5:04 PM

This really needs to be an ongoing conversation, the questions were riveting the answers in many cases brilliant. I could see this as a tremendous tool in the advancement of socialist thought.

Mark Maxey | June 29, 2017 at 1:41 PM

the question, What is the Communist Party USA’s stance on religious freedom? If it is different from the Soviet Union’s adoption of atheism, what do you think went wrong?

While I do not speak for CPUSA, I have recently written about this subject on my blog.

Marxism is not about atheism, Chairman Gus Hall was famous for saying, “Our quarrel is with capitalism, not God.”

Any religious thought that is oppressive is not the true nature of God if one so believes in God. Using religion to disqualify Marxist goals nullifies Marx’s goals. Oppression at any level denies the true freedom that an individual inherently has. So in a sense, fundamentalism is an oppressive tool to rule over a person instead of bringing out the proletariat qualities in a person.

In Conclusion, part of the struggle we face is relieving the oppression before us. That is realistic. We must keep struggling together. We must speak out when we see oppression of any type. Religion is a choice, but oppression of any kind is not a choice. Our goal is in liberating the oppressed.

    Scott Hiley | June 29, 2017 at 3:20 PM

    Hi Mark,
    Thanks for writing in and sharing your thoughts. I have a similar take on the question. Here’s a piece I wrote a year or so ago in response to a reader who wanted to know if Communism and Christianity were compatible with one another:

      Mark Maxey | June 29, 2017 at 8:46 PM

      Very similar in out summation. I will read the references you listed.

Michael Leone | June 28, 2017 at 5:28 PM

You didn’t answer the most upvoted question in the thread. It was a four-part question as follows:

The CPUSA has a severely damaged reputation, both among American socialist/communists and internationally, due to its sharp turn to the right in the recent past, cheering on corporate Democrats with little to no serious criticism, and its watering down of socialism into liberal reformism with excessive attempts to ‘Americanize’ it. Many in the leadership have pushed for a total drop of the Marxist-Leninist outlook, though this seems to be an ongoing struggle, and many outside have taken note of this. Does the CPUSA leadership acknowledge that it has acquired this reputation? If so, does it have any intention of trying to redeem itself among communists nationally and internationally?

In the 2016 election, the CPUSA took no side in the Democratic primary between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. In its media, both candidates were treated as equally representative of working class interests, despite virtually all socialist and progressive organizations rallying behind Sanders against the neoliberal corporatists of the DNC and to many socialists this, particularly the CPUSA’s publicly non-critical support of Clinton in the final election, was seen as an outright betrayal (though hardly a change in direction). While most socialists aim to free the working class from the confines of the Democratic Party, the CPUSA seemed to many to be trying to hold the gate closed and keep workers in the illusion at all costs, even its professed core values. Does the CPUSA’s leadership acknowledge that its handling of the election was embarrassing as a nominally communist organization and would it do things differently if given the chance?

It seems that the CPUSA is more concerned with unity among liberals and centrists than among socialists and the left. Why is left unity not a priority for the CPUSA?

Sam Webb, the party’s chairman from 2000 to 2014, recently withdrew his party membership and is no longer a Communist. Does this signify any kind of shift within the party? Few outside the party know that the CPUSA’s former chairman has renounced his own membership: why does this seem to have been swept under the rug?

I find it disappointing that in an Ask Me Anything thread the most popular and relevant question was willfully ignored. The entire thread was an embarrassment for the party as it showed that those assigned to answer any questions addressed to it were unable to respond to the most popular and relevant questions. The general consensus afterwards was that it was a spectacle for answering pre-screened questions under the guise of being an open forum and that the CPUSA is now to the right of groups like DSA. Very disappointing. I still leave these questions here for an answer.

    Scott Hiley | June 29, 2017 at 3:14 PM

    Hi Michael,

    Speaking for myself here, not for the other comrades, but I didn’t respond mostly because I’m a new Reddit user and wasn’t really paying attention to what was upvoted. I sort of selected questions based on whether I thought I could provide a concise response, with a preference for questions that I don’t get often.

    The issues you raise–about electoral politics, left-center coalitions, the fight against the ultra-right, etc–are ones that we get frequently. Folks have addressed them, often with better answers than I could provide, in the Peoples World ( and on our website. I would encourage you to look there. Sorry again that I didn’t respond to your extremely detailed question/comment.


    Craig Gaulzetti | June 29, 2017 at 6:29 PM

    Michael: I only speak for myself, but a careful analysis of material and political conditions has always been key to Communist strategy. Workers and Oppressed People are facing very real challenges that need to be addressed dynamically and not dogmatically. There is a huge difference between working with groups who have the potential to slow down the agenda of the far right, and “uniting” with Democrats. We can’t repeat the mistakes again that once saw our party calling Social Democrats “Social Fascists” and escape into misplaced and irrelevant idealism. We’re Dialectical-Materialists and we need to employ strategy that represents the best interests of the Working Class and Oppressed Peoples. Given the political climate, the historical and economic situation facing Americans, and the significant threat from Trump and the far right- the best course of action required an all-people’s front that set the defeat of Trump and the extreme right as the only condition for unity in this election cycle.
    As Communists we try to understand the social totality- but this does not preclude us from working with potential allies who have narrower progressive focuses. Whether it is environmental concerns, women’s rights, the plight of immigrants, the struggle for equality for our African-American brother and sisters, civil rights and prison reforms or the defense of the working class and our Unions- it IS the job of Communists to exploit the opportunities provided by the fissures and antagonisms in order to improve conditions today AND build for Socialism tomorrow.
    I take offense at the sentiment that this approach is not “left” or represents a shift from the strategies and historical approach of our Party and Marxism-Lennism. Despite the election of Trump, and because of the success of the Sanders campaign, we’re in a unique historical time with tremendous potential for channeling the indignation of people everywhere in our country towards building Socialism in America, defeating the far-right, and indeed strengthening our party and movement. I don’t feel the party is particularly interested in unity among liberals and centrists to the detriment of “left unity”- what we are interested in is defeating the far right, the Trump agenda, and fighting for the interests of the Working Class and Oppressed Peoples. We’re Communists and our understanding of the world demands we work within the material reality in which we find ourselves. I do believe our approach is correct, in the Marxist-Lenninist tradition, and firmly grounded in an understanding of the world from dialectical-materialist approach. Given the current state of things, it is counter productive to escape into jingoistic idealism about potential allies not meeting some arbitrary doctrine test. We are facing a very real crisis in capitalism, the erosion of rights here and abroad, and the stripping away of entitlements we have fought for for 100 years. In conclusion, no, our party is not perfect, but I do believe it is on the right side of history in this moment and our efforts this past election cycle will continue to help the working class and further us towards a Socialist USA. As Communists we need to face the realities of historical conditions and work within the framework of reality. Any other approach is not a Marxist approach but rather a retreat into ideological idealism and futility.

    Mark Maxey | June 29, 2017 at 11:28 PM

    Hi, Michael. I just joined CPUSA about two weeks ago. I had been a lifelong Democrat and very active politically. I also spent 6 months with the Bernie campaign, working with their National Data team. After the debacle from 2016 elections, I knew I had to leave. I had grown to not trust the sick, rigged two-party system.

    I registered as an Independent knowing full well the data on Ind., if ever organized could vote the rigged politicians out. I am a realist knowing that won’t happen.

    The second chapter of Communist Manifesto reads so in alignment with Bernie’s platform, that it was easy for me to choose to join.

    I won’t debate your post, as I respect your feeling and where your thoughts migrated towards. You are entitled to that.

    As a new member (55yrs old) I also know that Marx’s theories have to be organic. I am also an IWW member and know all their glorious history. The CP in 1900’s era is not close to where it is today. But I do know, for any real attempt to in workers gaining the ways and means of production, and to pull down the oppressors, the capitalists, we need #s.

    The Independents that we can get to join the CPUSA and our solidarity with other like minded leftist organizations, well…we can see Marxism flourish in America before my generation dies.

    No, CPUSA is not the same as it was 100 years ago in America, but neither am I the same person I was 30+ years ago. We all grow, change, mature,…etc.

    However, I do KNOW this, we all are in agreement that we believe in pulling down the capitalists’ oppressors, and allowing the workers to organize to take upon their shoulders the means of production.

    That in itself I think is being true to Marxism.

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