Engaging Communist Party membership

 
BY:Rossana Cambron| August 3, 2016
Engaging Communist Party membership

The report below was presented to a recent meeting of the National Board of the Communist Party.

We can see the potential for growth in our party at the present moment. Socialism is not a bad word anymore and there has been an uptick in recruitment. However maintaining this growth requires special attention to our party clubs and collectives. It requires the development of other forms that will not just recruit but retain members.

Party clubs and districts around the country have recognized this and called for strengthening organizational work. Key to achieving this is the engagement of members old and new.

Without someone responsible for membership engagement this area of work will not get the attention that is needed and that it deserves.

So my responsibility, which I am excited to take on, is as membership engagement coordinator: to engage and activate the membership including those that join online, who are not part of any structure and to help them connect with a local club or provide a form to actively participate in party work.

All members need to feel that they are making a contribution of some sort in order for them to stay engaged and active.

New members, especially those that join online, are not really involved in the numbers that they should be: some because they live in remote areas where there is no party club and others because party clubs and districts do not reach out to them. There are still others who join as a way of making a statement but do not really have any intention of getting involved.  Of course there are always the few armchair Marxists.

But among our new members there are those that are ready and willing to do what is needed to help bring about change that is necessary in this country.

We need to develop the forms of engagement that best fits new member’s  current living situation and gives them the opportunity to use their skills and talents to raise class consciousness among their friends, family members and co-workers and beyond.

I recently went out to visit clubs in Detroit, several cities in Ohio,  Pittsburgh and Chicago, plus a few individual members to hear what was on their mind, see how they saw the role and nature of the party, and get a picture of the level of their participation and some of the challenges they faced.

In Columbus Ohio, I was able to attend a community festival.  At the three day event the Colombus comrades set up a table for attendees to come and ask about  socialism, our program plus anything else that was on their mind.

Throughout my visits I paid close attention to comments that expressed what the party means, what the party should be doing, and member’s  ideas for building working-class consciousness.

Almost everyone I met was engaged in political action of some sort. Many expressed the opinion that they feel they are out there on their own because we lacked some national  party campaign that could be applied to all areas of our work. And although we have the “Facebook share campaign,” and the “message of the week,” most members do not know of them.

Among the most common comments expressed were:

  •  the need to be more visible; more open;
  •  the need for more schools in the districts;
  •  the need for better ways to express socialism;
  •  the idea that the national should build a greater relationship with the districts;
  •  the need for more basic answers to questions people have;
  •  that a  simpler more engaging party program should be produced.

In our member’s opinions the questions that are challenging the Party now are: What should be the role and nature of the Party in these times. In addition members asked what are the organizational forms that the Party should develop to recruit and engage more members.

Summarizing the the common threads in broad strokes members remarked that the party provides a sense of community; that the party starts where other groups end; that the cpusa has substance, is not single issue and that we’re involved in the current struggles of the day. The concept that the party heightens the awareness that the peoples movements are connected and that all need to work together to bring about change.  Reaching equality was high  on the list and members expressed the view that we have a vision of what direction the country should go in to achieve it. In this regard expanding what government already provides for people is seen as a most important goal.

 

What is to be done?
Chief among the main things members felt out to be addressed are:

  1. Finding new forms to breakdown the stereotypes of communism;
  2. Building strong fellowship with members – it’s not all about the politics;
  3.  Creating different educational forms to explain strategy and tactics; what is socialism, what is racism etc;
  4. Expanding the use of our website as an organizing tool;
  5. We need to have a specific task that I bring as a communist to the political activities I am involved in.

Campaigns
We need to find ways to work in a concerted effort so that we all feel like we are a part of the whole. The election for example may seem like the thing to do, but we have to accept that not everyone is able to participate on the same level, not everyone lives in a battleground states or has an organized form of participating that allows them to feel like they are doing Party work. Of course some, unfortunately, do not agree with our tactics.

Fine tuning electoral work
When discussing  the elections we need to adjust how we are working so that our activity emphasizes the communist plus, which sees the election as part of a process. This is not clear to most of our members.

The question has to be asked:  what during our election work can we do where 90% of the party participates? Is it a share campaign, the distribution of literature? How do we get members excited about these forms? What is the glue that binds us together given the new conditions that are before us?

Membership input is vital to membership engagement; we need to find ways to get membership input on a regular basis.

Here are some short-term goals that I believe will move this process of membership engagement along:

  •  In the next 3 months meet with at least 5 districts;
  •  During these visit search for comrades, who are not already swamped and are willing to     make first contact with new members;
  • Once the visits to the district are done, develop how to establish  Party clubs, forums, study group or meet-ups and provide materials that members can print out to have for tabling, or dissemination at events;
  •  Add questions to the membership application, e.g., What do you see as your participation in the CP, listing a few options;
  •  Conduct another phone bank to call new members that have not been reached;
  •  Continue with the membership committee, expand to include those that are participating in the cold calling effort;
  •  Find a way to engage new members who are tech-and-social media savvy and could play a role in producing up-to-date  forms to recruit, engage and disseminate information;
  •  Continue with the district club leaders forum. The first should be on the election plan laid out by the Political Action Committee;
  •   By the end of the year begin a messaging campaign, creating ways to promote our message of who we are and what we stand for in popular and creative ways;
  •    Within one month conduct a survey of the membership at large, asking for their input;
  •   By December have available an orientation for new members online, perhaps establishing a monthly new members webinar, produce a welcome to the Party video.

Again this is a preliminary report, I believe we should have an update on this work at least once per month at these meetings. Be by your phone because I’ll be calling you to set up a visit to your area.

 

Comments (29)

Aiden | August 24, 2017 at 12:58 AM

What’s the age limit for joining, I’m 14

    Joe Sims | August 26, 2017 at 12:54 PM

    18.

Jules Rensch | October 26, 2016 at 3:45 AM

thanx Rossana…great article….your observation concerning “timing” relative to introducing the CPUSA platform to the American public is “spot on”….Sen Bernie Sanders has done much to enhance the image of a popular peoples movement…
Truth is the youngest voters have no animosity towards Socialism, towards Communism or even have parents who have brainwashed them with “old school Red Scare” rhetoric.
….in solidarity, Jules

Matthew Miles | August 25, 2016 at 12:07 AM

I believe being visible is a good way to put our name and collective face out there. By giving more opportunities to educate the public on what we actually stand for we can encourage “armchair Marxists” to get involve and see that this is a legitimate movement, not an online club.

    Gary Mueller | September 12, 2016 at 3:40 AM

    Agreed, sadly the days of letters to the editor are all but gone. We need to learn the social media ins and outs to get the general population to hear our views

Mike | August 24, 2016 at 2:26 AM

I’d like to mention that I recently checked out the cpusa website and read the long manifesto. While I agree with many of your aims, I was surprised at the many references to the Soviet Union extolling its many great accomplishments toward making a better world. Huh? It wasn’t even good for it’s own citizens let alone the world. This fantastical portrayal will turn off many progressives who actually lived through that time.

Stratis Kounias (Greece) | August 24, 2016 at 8:38 PM

For all serious decisions first ask the members and then the party executive takes a decision, give power to the members of the party.

Lewis Litzinger | August 24, 2016 at 4:42 PM

Where I live, there were Romney yard signs everywhere and I see some Trump signs and bumper stickers. Some here have tried to run me over because I ride a bicycle! I would literally be afraid for my life, if they knew I was a Communist. I still want to hear from you and keep informed of your activities. (I am a 68 year-old white male -if that matters.)

John D. Alder | August 23, 2016 at 1:31 AM

How about having CPUSA flags/banners to sell so people can hang them on their walls at home?

Susan Gosman | August 23, 2016 at 12:22 AM

Congratulations Rossana! I want to comment on your third bullet point
and wonder if it might help our effectiveness if there are already in place, study groups, forums, clubs, etc. as much as possible. I think it’s important that new members see us as a dynamic organization where they can participate right out of the box. I would not want to forget the importance of social activities as well and think that movies, dinners, open mic events are often the glue that holds an organization together.

James | August 23, 2016 at 11:51 PM

I agree with Gail Ryall; Sharing People’s World articles are an excellent way to get the word out there. So much of the content I see from other news sources leaves me feeling frustrated, upset, even fearful.
People’s World articles are engaging, thoughtful; they make me feel proud and hopeful, even when the topic is dismal.

Justin Atkinson | August 23, 2016 at 9:43 PM

Want to get a club/study circle going in the Inland Empire SOCAL, anyone in the area interested?

Justin Atkinson | August 23, 2016 at 9:33 PM

I want to get a club/study circle going in the Inland Empire SOCAL anyone else in the area interested?

Peggy Dobbins | August 23, 2016 at 7:44 PM

Bring the slogan on the banner home.

Keenen b. Monroe | August 23, 2016 at 6:39 PM

Structure, involvement,commitment. New ideas that will make us even stronger, financial backing.

Jacobb Hamlet | August 17, 2016 at 10:20 PM

The Idea of a membership card seems really good.

Gary Mueller | August 13, 2016 at 2:10 PM

The CPUSA has shown it has learned from the past and allowed the development of socialist ideas to grow and evolve. But this observation comes from an old man who can remember a party that defended the Berlin wall. The CPUSA really has something to offer modern America as it rides the waves of democracy, it’s just a matter of getting out that message with everything from international reporting, instruction, humor and a feeling of being united. Just as a suggestion, I am a card carrying member of the ACLU, this card in my wallet has sparked many a discussion. I can see a benefit to a CPUSA membership card as well. You are all doing a good job.

    Darren | September 05, 2016 at 2:50 PM

    Gary, at nearly age 50, I remember during the Gus Hall days that I actually received a card in the mail. I was then and am proud today to be a “card carrying member of the Communist Party” (and also the ACLU). If you recall, the card was also a bright red in color (how appropriate!).

Gail Ryall | August 04, 2016 at 5:11 PM

Reading The People’s World is a first step towards becoming a member. We need some kind of template onto which a relevant PW article can be printed for distribution during a meeting, picket line, demonstration, march, etc. that will tell people that our paper supports their progressive cause.

    Matthew Ryan | August 05, 2016 at 4:13 PM

    As a new member I would like to add that there should be a better outreach and engagement towards new members that may not live in an area where there are any other members (at least openly declaring membership to CPUSA). Otherwise it just feels like I joined any other email list where i get spammed by newsletters and donation requests. When I joined last year I recieved one email that seemed very boilerplate and no other communication. There are no resources to find other members in your area. Alright enough complaining, keep up the hard work everyone!

      Matthew Encinias | August 09, 2016 at 8:50 PM

      I couldn’t agree with you more. Party leaders, help us! Wanting to do more in Denver.

      Darren | September 05, 2016 at 2:12 PM

      Good thoughts, Matthew Ryan. I am, for one, seeking printed material to hand out to CPUSA prospects here in western WI (lots of small towns). I need printed materials to share and then we 3 or more folks can meet and study The Communist Manifesto and also Peoples World and CPUSA articles as we plan action on local struggles, whilst, working with state and national party leaders (so that we are on the same page and singing out of the same hymnal). My County of Vernon is the poorest per capita in the State of Wisconsin, and we thank Scott Walker for that (“welcome to the Mississippi of the North”).

      Jules Rensch | October 26, 2016 at 4:01 AM

      Good points Matthew….I like the Google CPUSA presentations by Susan Webb…they “connect” us with screen and sound.
      Also telephone conference calls are a great way to bring us together.

      In solidarity, Jules

bob mazzei | August 04, 2016 at 11:49 AM

Not People and Nature before Profits but People and Nature and No Profits at all! Capitalism cannot be tamed, it must be overcome for the sake of human kind!

    Joshua A Tucker | August 05, 2016 at 4:34 AM

    Comrade profits are not merely a capitalist luxury, but when shared help our any nation state provide for its people

      Jules Rensch | October 26, 2016 at 4:12 AM

      Thanks Joshua…for simplicity…let’s just call it “Profit Sharing”
      …as in pumping profits back to the people…the community…everyone wins!
      Jules

    Len | August 12, 2016 at 2:07 PM

    Hi Bob, I can relate to your wanting No Profits. I’ve experienced small capitalists e.g. landlords who can be particularly nasty. There are also some small business people and people involved in larger businesses who are with us on various levels. The is a need to work in a multi-class way while adhering to working class approaches and ideas. Socialism will be a transitional as well as transformational. Assessing each situation in detail will dictate how fast we can travel to a non-exploitive society. We’ll get there with patience and struggle.

      Darren | September 04, 2016 at 4:53 PM

      yes, Len, it is the long march through history approach that will, in the end, work for all the working class. As Communists, we have no problem w/the small business person who pays living wages, and as to profits it is not money that is the root of all evil but the love of money, GREED, that is the root of all evil.

      Jules Rensch | October 26, 2016 at 4:07 AM

      Bravo Len….a revolution begins with a movement…steadily progressing & building towards defined goals…
      In solidarity, Jules

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