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.

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.



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