Building the club and party

BY:Shelby Richardson, Jr.| May 29, 2019


The Communist Party USA is one hundred years old; it has a glorious history of fighting against all kinds of bigotry, economic exploitation, social oppression and for world peace.  It has done this in the face of a sustained United States capitalist class attack.  It has demonstrated its mettle. We should proudly acknowledge we are communist and members of the Communist Party USA.

I joined the party around 1980 in Chicago, there were known communist members mostly older, such as Claude Lightfoot, Ishmael Flory, Arlene Brigham among others, which included some younger members. During that time more people knew the party existed in Chicago than today. People engaged with the party in various ways, some joined, but not enough. It was not for a lack of trying to recruit new members, but mainly a residue of McCarthy repression of the party in the 1950s.  As party club organizer presently, and a club leader over past years, I have been frequently asked “is the Party still around” subsequently, it has become clear to me we must become more visible and increasingly become a greater force in political struggles. As the 2020 elections approach Trump has already begun vilifying socialism. A contribution we can make is to refute his lies. This moment is ripe now because young people are open to socialism and are open to joining the Communist Party.

We need to be ready to retell that history to honest inquiries while not being dragged into a paralyzing posture by dishonest forces who seek to defame our history. The network of defamers are very good at what they do, but to remain silent on who we are will be to our detriment in the long run. The Communist Party and its appeal for socialism will be so demonized that the working class will not consider it as being viable.  A mature claiming of the name Communist is not living in the past but rather a watering of the roots of our rich history to strengthen us going forward.

These are challenging times for the working class and progressive forces in our country today. It needs a communist party that works well with labor and other coalition partners. As in the past, our party’s goal is to find ways to push the envelope in the fight for jobs with a living wage for all,  national and racial equality, the ending of police brutality, and now maintaining a woman’s right to choose and saving the environment from corporate plunder. If the broader forces come to know us for this, our ranks will grow.

In preparation for such an outcome we have to re-energize many of our clubs. We have to ensure people feel welcome. A good many of their ideas may not mirror ours, but we should not come off as “know it alls”; we have to listen patiently to them and build on the ideas we have in common. Some of their ideas will take time to change (maybe some never will) but if there is agreement that we focus on strengthening the working class fight back and collectively work to that end, that’s a good start.

Educational work in the Party seems to have improved significantly; however I think we need to go farther. Whenever two or more want to study the classics, let’s make it happen. We should have a seasoned party person to be part of the study group when possible. Maybe they could report back to the club progress made and questions resulting from the study. We should also find time to discuss articles challenging Marxist positions, especially ones our members are curious about. Current popular books on war and peace, economics, the environment etc. should be discussed through the club. Working class intellectuals within our ranks can make a special contribution in this area. The club’s educational work should always be connected to struggle, and sharpening our ability to move our efforts forward.

If our clubs became more dynamic we will likely become more engaged in mass struggles along with other organizations, more deeply involved in electoral politics and may even find ourselves initiating fightback activities.

How quickly will this happen is hard to determine but the times demand that clubs experiment with approaches that result in growing our membership and furthering our impact in the fight back. Some clubs may be farther along in this process than others, and efforts have been made to share experiences, yet we should spare no effort to share and communicate successes that our rank and file membership can identify with (want to imitate and make happen).

We know a huge challenge for our Party is to increase class consciousness among the working class. This desire leads us to work closely with labor and mass organizations whose efforts strengthen the working class because out of struggle they increasingly expose the true nature of the capitalist class. We are correct to work in such a way. However in those formations they expose their understanding of the struggle and what they fight for. In nearly every instance we support what they fight for, differing at time with tactics around one issue or another. But how we communist see economic and political and social issues are too rarely voiced. Why do we want Socialism, what is it, how do we win it? It is in the club where this is mostly done, that is why the club is so important!

To our credit we have discussed the importance of growing the Party in various meetings and conferences. Let’s remain focused on that goal, realizing to play our vital role we need members. Nor should we forget we are fortunate to have our working class press: PEOPLE’S WORLD, it’s quality and prestige has grown significantly.  A growing membership, confident of who it is, and eager to engage working class people on why socialism is needed by distributing both the on-line and print editions of the People’s World will pave the way to a stronger more relevant Communist Party.








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