Build the Party, Build the Clubs

BY:National Committee CPUSA| March 29, 2024
Build the Party, Build the Clubs


Editor’s Note: Build the Party, Build the Clubs is one of three discussion documents submitted by the CPUSA in preparation for its 32nd National Convention.  It was approved for submission by the party’s National Board at its March 27th meeting.

As the 2024 election unfolds, the U.S. working class is increasingly taking the fight to the bosses. Last year, strike action was way up, as was involvement in electoral struggles all over the country. Labor is taking greater independent political initiative to set the national agenda. The AFL-CIO, for example, recently demanded a ceasefire in Gaza.

This independent stance is extremely important as the country enters an unprecedented and highly perilous moment. MAGA insurrectionists may possibly win both the presidency and Congress. If successful, all bets are off. Decades of hard-won working-class gains like Social Security, collective bargaining, and environmental protections will be on the line. So, too, with voting, abortion, and LGBTQ rights. In truth, not only civil rights but all democratic rights will be in jeopardy.

Indeed, the struggle for democracy has emerged front and center in the national debate. As it heats up, the coal miner’s old refrain “Which Side Are You On?” rings loud and clear. In answer, mass movements of the far right and broad left sweep the country.

Fearful about the future and frustrated with the present, the U.S. working class is desperate for solutions, but instead of finding them, it watches in growing anger as the rich get richer while the government stumbles from one disaster to another. Today it’s Gaza, tomorrow it’s the U.S.-Mexico border, and the next day it’s the Supreme Court giving Trump yet another pass. As a result, millions are being radicalized. The situation is ripe, overripe for change.

But real change doesn’t happen spontaneously. It requires leadership, unity, and vision. And that’s what the Communist Party brings: an understanding of the necessity of working-class leadership of the broad front against the far right; a championing of its unity of action, a clear Leninist vision that the path forward is paved with the struggle for full and complete democracy. Needless to say, this includes upholding working-class internationalism at home by combatting U.S. imperialism abroad.

Today, that path lies in the fight for reproductive rights, voting rights, and the right to organize unions free of company interference; it lies in the struggle for the right to healthcare, affordable housing, affirmative action, community control of the police, and a clean sustainable environment. And it lies in never abandoning the right to live in a world of peace.

The capitalist system continually undermines and overturns these rights. It’s the source of the export of jobs, racist attacks, misogyny, austerity, and imperialist interventions that rob communities of resources and hope. Ultimately, in order to resolve these problems, they have to be addressed at their source.

The Communist “plus”

And that’s the role of the Communist Party: to connect the attack on working-class rights to their sources in capitalist exploitation – that’s the “plus” that the Communist Party brings. It’s the fight for the full realization of these rights, that is, the struggle to take them to their logical conclusion that will lead to working-class power and socialism.

All across the country, Communist activists are in the thick of these class and democratic battles. They’re on the front lines of the class struggle with striking workers. They’re working in coalitions organizing support for a ceasefire in unions, city councils, state legislatures, and in Congress.

Clubs in neighborhoods, workplaces, and campuses are involved in housing struggles, fighting against racist police violence, advocating for LGBTQ equality, and defending abortion rights.

CPUSA members are on the ground providing mutual aid, fighting for immigrant rights, organizing at Starbucks and Amazon, and demonstrating against climate change. Members are protesting attempts to erase Black,  Latino and Asian American history and defending bilingual education. Some are preparing to run party-initiated campaigns for office.

This vital mass work is being made possible by leaps in the party’s growth all over the country, with several thousand signing up online in the last few years. Workers and students are joining in numbers not seen in decades. They are lending invaluable experiences, skills, strength, and energy to the party’s work and are helping rebuild it from the ground up.

Clubs are being established in states where none existed. Areas that had only one club with members scattered statewide now have several clubs. New state organizations are emerging as well. Already-established district collectives and clubs are being consolidated and strengthened.

Rebuilding the party is the combined effort of party veterans and new members who are working together to renew ties with trade unions and mass democratic and peace movements. As they join in strike actions, demonstrations, occupations, sit-ins, voting, and fielding candidates for office, they are learning the ABCs of united front politics. This, too, is part of party building.

The club is our focus

As clubs take shape around the country, the main task in many places is to consolidate citywide collectives. This is an important step toward establishing clubs in neighborhoods, workplaces, and on campuses. The building of these clubs should be one of the party’s principal goals.

While getting started, all clubs should actively take part in the political, social, and cultural life of their communities. Where possible, they should participate as a public political party in demonstrations, rallies, street festivals, etc. and have a regular media presence.

Choosing specific neighborhoods and workplaces in which to center the party’s work is key. The more well-defined these are, the better. Thought should be given to focusing on specific precincts and wards. This is important because one of the club’s goals should be to build coalitions to change the local balance of forces in favor of working-class interests. Needless to say, this requires a concrete knowledge of the community’s issues and needs.

Each club should develop an approach to building a tangible mass base in their area of concentration. A club’s tangible mass base is composed of the people, organizations, and movements it is in touch with. A good place to begin is with the club’s immediate circle of contacts. This includes its mailing lists, social media contacts, and readers of People’s World.

Clubs in neighborhoods, workplaces, and on campuses are in position to establish their own grassroots constituency by developing relationships with specific neighbors and co-workers  through sharing People’s World, invites to actions and meetings as an introduction to the movement and the Communist Party. Consistency and persistence are the watchwords, learning from each other. This is the primary method of strengthening the multiracial, multinational working class-composition of our party.

While building the club’s public influence, care must also be taken to insure its internal democratic collective functioning as well. In the early stages of the club’s growth, finding comrades willing to anchor its work may initially prove challenging. In these situations, informal leaderships are often agreed to by consensus. As the club grows, these collectives should be replaced by elected ones at club and district conferences where plans of work are adopted. These elections, of course, can also be by consensus. Plans of work should include issues on which to campaign, along with the neighborhoods and/or industries the club will focus on.

The battle of ideas 

A basic aspect of party-building is engaging in the battle of ideas. In addition to the political and economic struggle, influencing people’s thinking is one of the top features of the party’s role. This battle of ideas occurs in many venues. Conversations can take place in formal settings, but often they are more informal: over a meal, at the barbershop or hairdresser, in the locker room, or online on X, Threads, Instagram, Facebook, or YouTube.

Whatever the location, when engaging in these discussions and debates, members should represent to the best of their ability the party’s positions. A good place for learning them is by reviewing the party’s Road to Socialism program, its constitution, and the National Committee’s basic documents, all of which can be found at

The party’s topical pamphlets are another valuable resource, as is Good Morning Revolution, our weekly YouTube broadcast. The Education Department’s Marxist Classes series also provides an excellent introduction to the party, its beliefs, and our role in the fight for a new socialist society.

Becoming a mass party

A working familiarity with the party’s basic concepts is particularly important with respect to defining the concept of the party itself. Its role is not frozen in time but changes in accordance with the unique circumstances in each country. The cadre model of a revolutionary working-class party tailored to fit Russia’s conditions at the turn of the century has been replaced as conditions have changed.

In its stead, at Lenin’s initiative, the international Communist movement adopted new organizational principles for countries with bourgeois democracies. This new version was called a “mass party.”  “Mass” was defined as participating in mass action, taking initiative, expanding influence over time, and building a large membership.

A mass party would, by means of working in united fronts around issues and militant class struggle, establish its leadership and win working-class majorities to the cause of socialism. Mass parties would wage a political struggle by standing for office, fighting repression, and resisting war. They would simultaneously carry on the economic struggle by fighting around bread-and-butter issues, all the while conducting the ideological struggle to mold socialist consciousness in the mass media, schools, and cultural institutions. Mass parties would also work at training cadres, some of whom become lifelong professional revolutionaries. Most Communist Parties today are based on this model.

The CPUSA is striving to build such a party. Its thousands of new members must become tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands. In a country the size of the United States, millions must eventually be involved. Politics, Lenin once observed, begins with the millions.

To achieve this as the party grows, the U.S.’s unique circumstances, history, culture, science, and technology have to be taken into consideration. A mass party has to master contemporary methods of communication and organization, social media and networks, with all their opportunities and challenges. It must also master on-the-ground organizing.

The party club should be one of the principal places to acquaint members with the CPUSA’s concept of building a mass party.

An ideologically-developed membership

Indeed, clubs are where the party’s ideological groundwork is laid; they’re where members’ organizing skills are fine-tuned. Building on this foundation, party activists should be well-versed in the theory and practice as well as the history of Marxist-Leninist politics.

Clubs should be a place to enrich members’ intellectual and cultural life along with sharpening their critical analytic skills. A well-rounded anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic, pro-working class Marxist education that empowers workers to lead, politically, organizationally and ideologically should be the aim of its work.

As the party grows in size and influence, its understanding of Marxist basics therefore should increase as well. As a theory of class struggle, the communist worldview is under constant pressure. In response to that pressure, the party has at times made mistakes. It has ceded to opportunistic calls to temper its voice and lower its flag. This occurred in the 1940s and for a time at the turn of the 21st century. In the name of breadth and fighting sectarianism, for example, party basics like taking initiative, having a public presence, or standing for office were discouraged. In the name of “flexibility,” basics like emphasizing class struggle, working-class leadership, and political independence were de-emphasized. Both had the effect of weakening the party’s influence and dissolving its structures and organization.

On the other hand, efforts to get back on track sometimes have led to overcorrection and forays into narrow politics. The defense of Marxism-Leninism’s basic propositions therefore requires balance and measure. Indeed, its best defense most often lies in its creative development, which in turn requires fostering a culture of critical study, investigation, and an exchange of views – keeping in mind that the fight for party unity cannot be separated from its ideological foundations, particularly in periods of rapid growth.

Entry into the party cannot be for the sole aim of altering its foundations and program. While unity does not mean unanimity or conformity, it does require principle and carrying out comradely exchanges within collective structures while strictly avoiding organizing outside of them. Social media platforms cannot be a place for factional organizing.

Building the party around our press 

An essential part of returning to Marxist basics is re-emphasizing the role of People’s World. The party considers its press unique: As a working-class online daily, the PW has long been the voice of the party and of the labor and people’s movement. It must also be their arm and instrument.

The PW plays a singular unifying role in the fight against the MAGA right by putting labor up front in the effort to build broad all-peoples unity. Its staff is doing an excellent job with few resources, providing top-notch labor reporting, national and international news, environmental analysis, and cultural features, all of which allow it to appeal to diverse audiences. Increasing the PW’s circulation should be a top priority, both for the clubs and all members.

The truth, however, is that the party is not utilizing the PW in a manner that allows it to live up to its potential as a collective organizer, mobilizer, and advocate of the working-class and people’s movement. This is in part due to the fact that, with a few exceptions, the PW, while enjoying broad spontaneous readership, is no longer consistently used and distributed by clubs and districts.

A major cause is that after the PW ended its print edition, which had a long tradition of workplace and neighborhood circulation, conscious and planned distribution of it online was never mastered. This problem continues today. Solving it remains a key task in the CPUSA’s ongoing effort to build a mass party with mass influence, both of which depend on the publication’s mass circulation.

An important place to begin addressing this issue is with discussions in each club and district about People’s World and how written, photo, and video contributions about local events can be organized. Smartphones and other devices have significantly increased the potential for sharing content and building local audiences. Importantly, such coverage can lead to building relationships with local unions and movements.

A few districts have formed writers groups devoted to developing a corps of reporters. Others are sponsoring PW forums and fundraising banquets. Still others are using PW articles as the basis for club educationals. Some clubs also use a locally-developed print edition to circulate PW articles door-to-door in neighborhood distributions. An abbreviated print edition of every week’s articles is also sent to prisoners across the country, mailed out by volunteers in Chicago.

All sections of the party should consider how to promote the PW on their social media platforms, via email, text messaging, and in modified print form when possible. Each and every effort will contribute to increasing “PW consciousness” and giving members and clubs a stake in and ownership of the publication. This, in turn, is sure to assist the goal of building the party around its press and recruitment, a point that has to be emphasized again and again.

Consolidating our growth

In fact, much more attention should be devoted to conscious efforts at the “real stuff” of party-building. Mass public outreach and recruiting new members is where the rubber hits the road. While significant growth has been achieved in recent years, here again, most of it takes place online and is almost completely spontaneous.

The truth is people are coming to the party, but the party is not reaching out to the people – at least not in a consistent and organized way. While celebrating the “socialist moment” of recent years, the party has yet to tap into it in a deliberate way. In this respect, the Communist movement has not risen to the occasion or met the political moment.

There are, of course, important exceptions. During the years of the pandemic, both the party and People’s World held several online Town Hall events: on unemployment, women’s rights, immigration, and voting rights, along with two international conferences. All of these reached significantly beyond the movement’s immediate circles. That said, online efforts have been sporadic and poorly executed. Developing campaigns targeting specific communities has not been attempted.

In-person mass events, along with face-to-face recruitment, have been sporadic. When it does occur, however, the results are very promising, particularly with respect to racial and gender composition. Going forward, membership drives need to be organized with specific goals and timetables.

Overall, the party has made considerable progress in consolidating its growth. New member orientations organized by the national office are held regularly, and clubs and districts have developed approaches to systematically vetting new members.

The National Education Department has organized the Marxist Classes online webinars, leadership training seminars, and a Working-Class Project exploring important social issues, many of which bring together several hundred participants. The in-person annual Little Red Schoolhouse has also provided basic introductions to theory and policy to close to 100 young Communists, many of whom will become future party cadres.

The work ahead of us

Notwithstanding these achievements, the party has a ways to go politically and organizationally. Significant gaps remain between setting goals and fulfilling them, gaps that inhibit the very purpose of collective decision making. Finding comrades willing to anchor some national, district, and local collectives remains a significant challenge. Addressing these cadre problems must be approached systematically and with deliberation.

At the club level, one important step would be to work towards electing chairpersons, organizational secretaries (or coordinators), and education directors. Some clubs are finding co-chairs useful in balancing responsibilities and sharing the work. The national leadership should also make efforts to elect a national organizational secretary.

The party’s ability to rapidly respond to events remains a big problem. Very often, leadership in the mass movements is in the hands of those who take initiative and act. Slow responses result in tailing developments. This is a particularly acute issue with social media and the party’s messaging. While steps are being taken to address it, more needs to be done.

The party needs to be bolder and take greater initiative around burning social issues. Here, care must be taken to build and work in coalitions with diverse community organizations. Joining hands with the sectarian left should be avoided like the plague. Experience has shown it will only end up in bickering, splits, and failed initiatives. The CPUSA favors united fronts with trade unions, community groups, places of worship, civil rights organizations – not sectarian parties.

It should also be stated: The times cry out for Communist candidates. The CPUSA simply cannot fulfill its role as a political party without running for office. The focus should be on standing for local office. Such campaigns should aim to build broad community-based electoral coalitions. In this regard, the standard should not be set so high that campaigns are never undertaken.

The times also cry out for building a mass Young Communist League. And here again the CPUSA cannot fulfill its mission without the militancy, stamina and energy of the young generation. The socialist moment of the last period is largely a youth-led-and-energized moment and for good reason.  The young generation are most affected by the capitalist crisis – they are its first casualties but also the first to fight against it.

The 31st convention recommitted itself to the goal of refounding the YCL and that commitment remains. YCL clubs are continuing to spring up around the country in communities and on campuses. A few have multiple campus clubs. Consolidating a communist core in the youth movement remains the goal.  Its achievement requires moral, political and ideological support. It also demands material assistance.

Overall, the party’s rebuilding process continues apace. Solid political, organizational, and ideological foundations are being laid. Weaknesses are being corrected and overcome. Throughout the party, collective practices are being adopted with the understanding that the CPUSA has one leadership united in its National Committee, one political program, The Road to Socialism, and one ideology, Marxism-Leninism.

Onward to the 32nd National Convention!




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