Survey says, CPUSA members want to be heard

BY:John Bachtell| January 24, 2018
Survey says, CPUSA members want to be heard

Communists have strong opinions as everybody knows. I often joke if you ask a group of communists to agree where to go for dinner, you’ll get different recommendations from each one, passionately argue, never agree and end up starving.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise over 500 members responded to the first ever Communist Party USA membership survey over the fall of 2017 and many have strong opinions about the organization.

“We were elated by the response, said Rossana Cambron, CPUSA membership coordinator. “It’s almost overwhelming. Members spent a lot of time reflecting and giving thoughtful answers, criticisms, suggestions and ideas to help improve the work of the organization.”

The survey along with regular communications, webinars and phone banks are steps the Party is taking to increase membership engagement. It provided a treasure of responses and experiences and will take time to process.

One is immediately struck by the fact that seventy-six percent of respondents have been Party members for five years or less. As Joe Sims, CPUSA Party and Social Media coordinator, remarked to the National Conference, “We basically have a new party.”

Most members are involved in their communities and in a range of labor, social justice, environmental and peace organizations.

Among the labor activists are trade union leaders and members of central labor councils, retiree organizations, Jobs with Justice and the Fight for 15.

Others are involved in feminist organizations including Planned Parenthood, defense of abortion clinics and the new #MeToo movement.

Many are involved in racial justice groups including Black Lives Matter and the NAACP, immigrant rights, LGTBQ organizations and disability rights groups.

Members were involved with Bernie Sanders campaign and are continuing their activism in Our Revolution, Swing Left, Indivisible, Working Families Party, statewide groups like the New Virginia Majority and local Democratic Party groups and 2018 electoral campaigns.

Several members are elected officials.

For others, joining the CPUSA was their first political act. They are disgusted with the current politics and Trump’s election was the final straw. They are trying to find their way to broader political participation.

The responses force us to think more deeply about how members see relating to the Party and even more broadly, how people affiliate given today’s political culture. Only 21 percent attend local meetings either because they live in an area where there is no party club or they relate to the organization in different ways. For example, 65 percent read and share articles from People’s World while  44 percent do the same with Over 55 percent pay dues and make donations.

Twenty-nine percent attend online educational discussions. Many were not aware these presentations were archived on the CPUSA YouTube channel and could be watched at their convenience.

Nearly 57 percent follow the CPUSA on Facebook, 27 percent on YouTube and 23 percent on Twitter.

Most felt the communications they receive including emails and texts were informative and effective. Several members noted the ease with which information can be accessed through their cell phones.

“I do find the CPUSA site and Peoples World very accessible and readable,” said one member. “(I) Found the party website to have an excellent Q&A section, with very well written responses to many different topics. An excellent resource to anyone new to party concepts or Marxism in the modern day.”

However, others feel overwhelmed by the amount of email they receive especially those who are also receiving communications from other organizations. Some suggested better email templates and more news about local Party activism.

Many felt the communications in no way substituted for getting members together at the local level. In many cases, they are the only members in an area and would like face-to-face contact with others. About fifteen percent said they have never been contacted by a party organizer.

One member suggested improvements in use of language. “We can’t have a Movement Politics without the Movement. I find that the language used to engage members partially uses the language of a movement, but does not come from the grassroots movement itself.”

“This is in conflict with our proclamation or solidarity. I say this to explain what I find lacking in the email and online presence of the party. It feels hollow, and without the substance that comes only from volunteers out on the street – not campaigning – but providing services,” said the member from Michigan.

Another member expressed an opinion shared by others, “Web video presentations (i.e., YouTube) would be beneficial. Examples like the Young Turks, Humanist Report or like the Real News method.”

And a member from California wrote, “I believe your FAQ pages needs more information. When a potential member explores the website, you need to realize that they probably have also visited our sisters and brothers at DSA, Socialist Party USA, and the Progressive Caucus of the Democratic Party. Your FAQ page really, really, really needs to clarify how CPUSA is different and similar to those other groups who, more or less, are our allies.”

Some suggested establishing a forum to exchange information among members and local club organizations. Still others expressed frustration the Party has not been able to break through to a wider audience.

Similarly, members expressed a range of opinions about the . Many felt it provided excellent news and analysis while others expressed a strong desire for more in-depth articles from a Marxist perspective.

Suggestions included expanding coverage, sending out daily updates of new articles, ramping up the Spanish language version Mundo Popular, more cartoons, illustrations and videos.

Some suggested resurrecting a print edition, which was discontinued several years ago in response to digital publishing revolution and overwhelming cost. In response to requests for the abbreviated weekly downloadable edition, they are now being sent to club and state leaders.

Since many joining the Party are millennials, there is an affinity with social media. Nearly 60 percent follow the Party and People’s World on Facebook, 27 percent on YouTube and 24 percent on Twitter. About 43 percent share content from both websites on social media.

Members expressed a strong desire to offer their skills and talents in the Party’s work. Over 120 volunteered to help set up new clubs in their communities. They are now included in the work of the Membership Engagement and Organizing Committee.

Nearly half said they would contribute articles to the and websites and 40 percent offered to edit. Among them are several professional editors.

Another forty percent said they would volunteer with social media promotion. Others offered help with fundraising, video production, photography, art and graphics, memes, outreach to new members and fundraising. The Membership Engagement and Organizing Committee is discussing ways to follow up on these offers to help.

A set of questions dealt with the CPUSA’s public presence, image, the growing acceptance of socialist ideas and impact of anti-communism. The results are too much to discuss here and will be the subject of a future article.

Many expressed appreciation for the survey and the opportunity to share their thoughts.

“I think I’ve already said a lot. I don’t want to bog you folks down,” wrote one member. “I hope what I’ve said is seen as a criticism out of passion for an organization I desperately wish to see succeed. The survey was a nice touch. I felt like I finally had a voice.”

Another wrote, “Thanks for continuing to exist and thanks for reading my comments. This level of engagement most parties overlook. I feel reasonably certain that someone will read my response and even think about the merit of my arguments. That is part of why I am a member.”

Rest assured, comrade, your responses are being read and taken to heart!

Photo: Bernard Sampson

Comments (5)

Emmett | February 24, 2018 at 1:33 AM

The longer I live, the more certain I am that, as President Obama said, the “long arc of justice will eventually bend in the right direction.” CPUSA needs to continue as it has been for the past ten years — and yes, the web site and Facebook presence make a BIG difference, because the medium still is the message. We can be proud of where we came from, humbled by where we are, and energized by the certainty that only Communists have answers — real answers — to America’s problems. Here’s a test for you: ask any Democrat or Republican what their plan is for the job-starved areas of eastern Ohio or southern West Virginia. They’ll look at you with a blank face and maybe talk about public works programs (which is an idea they got from the Communists a long time ago.) Ask a Communist and that person will tell you about partnerships between government, residents, and businesses. About trying things out. About seeking solutions, together. This is what makes us different. It’s what makes us good. Morally good.

Charles Eaton | February 20, 2018 at 8:01 PM

If we are being heard, why is it that half of our phone numbers on our web pages nationally are not accurate? Are our leaders being accountable to the membership? I know that the questions I ask I’m asking here may be taken as a vinegar approach. I do not question the integrity nor the well-meaning of the Communist Party of America leadership. I do however question the strategy that is being used. First you must have a good foundation. This foundation is always based upon education and Marx and Lenin principal. Only 30% of our perspective membership can be reached through the Internet. Most of not even though the Communist Party even exist in the United States. Where is our solutions for this? One billboard in 5 to 7 metropolitan areas could solve this, driving thousands to this website. But do we have the structure in place to train these new socialist? What is our overall goal? If we are listening to the workers, then show us a plan. Socialism and communism is based on always having a central leadership committee. This committee is responsible for all actions of the party. It should have a concise accurate and workable plan. It is good to have an explanation of our ideology, but it is also just as important to have a plan. This is always been done on a five-year basis. So what is our five your plan?

I look forward to seeing it, me and many others have expressed the ability and the willingness to support such a plan. Both financially and physically on the ground in a grassroots effort. But yet we are ignored?

We are at a pivotal point, and if we do not wake up, if we do not start to build our membership, our foundation at a much wider and accelerated pace, we may well just be pretenders, nothing but shadows of the formal greatness of the American Communist Party movement.

    Emmett | February 24, 2018 at 1:37 AM

    The reality is that the Communist Party sullied its name by years of sycophantic adherence to Soviet-style Communism, which was not at all suited to the U.S. It takes a really long time to rehabilitate a word: just look at where the word “liberal” is any more, ever since Reagan made it into an epithet. But “conservative”? So yes, we have a lot of work to do, but let’s not forget that a lot of the work is because we pissed in our own house.

Bob Eilbott | February 17, 2018 at 12:40 PM

The cpusa is the only party that doesn’t cowdown to Donald Trump and must be allowed to grow in numbers

jules | February 09, 2018 at 11:55 PM

great job John….to finally see the stats, all in one article is a blessing…allowing us, as individuals, to see exactly where we fit into the whole picture of the party…bravo

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