Engaging our members in ideological work

BY:Scott Hiley| July 23, 2019

The lively discussion around Political Affairs (and our ideological and theoretical work more broadly) reflects a shared understanding:  the party is entering a new moment.  On the tide of our “socialist moment,” people are coming to Marxism–and, increasingly, to us. We have three interrelated tasks: developing our theory and analysis, extending its reach among the working class and its allies, and building the party by engaging as many of our members as we can in both areas.

The third point, engaging our members in the work, is vital to both the advancement of our Marxist theory and the growth of our party.  The people coming to us want to learn from us, but they also want to contribute their ideas and their skills.  Giving them the chance to do so is the best way of keeping them around and developing them into leaders.

The following recommendations reflect deliberations of the National Committee and National Board as well as contributions to pre-Convention discussion and input from the Education Collective and the editors of the website.

  • Coordinate between the National Board, Education Collective and the website to make organized, party-wide discussion a permanent feature of our work. Establish a Discussion Question of the Month (ex: “What does working class leadership of the democratic movement look like?) to serve as a loose theme for the website, connect to the programming of the Education Collective, generate structured discussion and debate within the party, and provide new clubs with a resource for meetings. Materials published around the question could include an article or report from a party leader, a short list of relevant PW and PA articles, discussion guides, and carefully chosen, short excerpts from the classics.
  • Diversify our theoretical and ideological work. Sometimes a long article is what it takes; other times, a short video would be more appropriate.  Developing formats for shorter and less formal interventions serves a few purposes.  It lowers the barrier to participation for people who want to get involved.  It will allow us to increase the frequency of posting, which helps bring traffic to the website. Finally, providing multiple ways for people to engage with our ideas makes our theory accessible and engaging.  (This includes producing more content in video form and building CPUSA’s YouTube channel.
  • Develop cpusa.org as a theoretical forum whose core is discussions and reports of the National Board and other party collectives. As part of its role as a party-building tool, make the website a showcase for theoretical work that is revolutionary in both its analysis and its accessibility.  One approach would be to establish a Political Affairs section on the website as a home for theoretical contributions (written and video).

None of these goals are achievable without many more hands in the work–as writers, planners, editors, producers, facilitators, note-takers….  Therefore, we need to:

  • Expand the Education Collective. At least half of the members brought on should be under 40, and all should be able (or willing to learn) to participate in the technical and organizational work: hosting webinars, producing materials, planning meetings, etc.
  • Expand the Editorial Collective of the website. The expanded collective should be a working group rather than an advisory board, with the goal of 8-12 members (half or more under 40) collaborating regularly with the party to plan, solicit, edit, publish, and review content.  It should include people with skills in editing written documents, communicating with contributors, producing video and audio, and working with digital images.  If training is needed, let’s provide it or arrange for them to get it elsewhere.
  • Put forth the expectation that collectives distribute tasks so that all members participate in all aspects of the work. In particular, white comrades, men, and those with advanced academic training should take care not to slip into the role of ‘intellectuals’, with the expectation that others will carry out the organizational and administrative tasks.

These are ambitious goals. We should always strive to be realistic about what we can do.  But we should also be realistic about the crisis facing workers and oppressed people.  We can’t save the world.  That’s a job for the working class.  What we can do is give them the tools they need.


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