Structure testing: empirical benchmarks for Party growth 

BY:Justine Medina| June 3, 2024
Structure testing: empirical benchmarks for Party growth 


This piece is a contribution to the Pre-Convention Discussion for our 32nd National Convention. During Pre-Convention Discussion, all aspects of the party’s program, strategy, and tactics are up for consideration and debate. The ideas presented here are those of the author or authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Communist Party USA, its membership, or their elected leadership bodies. — Editors

In the labor world, the term “structure testing” has been popularized by respected veteran labor organizers like Jane McAlevey. As she explained in her book, No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age, structure tests are “tests that measure both union democracy and the participation levels of the rank and file.” They are the systematic way to simultaneously test and strengthen the democracy and power in action within the union. As her saying goes, “the strike is the ultimate structure test,” but there are many forms of structure test: worker surveys, petitions, button-ups, marches on boss. The thing that differentiates these tests from generic surveys, petitions, or actions is their methodological insistence to measure data and then, using that data, build up the ladder of escalation through their organization when fighting the boss.

Structure testing does not always map perfectly onto other arenas of organizing, but it can get close. Methodical build-up to, and data-driven analysis of, mobilization efforts can be used to test organizations of all kinds. Within the Party, it would be useful to at times approach our organizing and mobilizations as structure tests, to assess where we’re at and to build. We could even get creative to brainstorm actions that would test our structures at scale, such as “send a quote of what it means to be a party member” that way we both engage membership and quantify responsiveness (this specific idea would also be useful give us a stockpile of quotes to use in publications down the road). Collectives working together to design structure tests at district, regional, and national levels could be a fun way to engage active and inactive members.

Cadre development

While they’re not normally referred to as “cadre,” every disciplined and militant union or mass political organization develops its leaders through strategic training systems and expectations. We are a mass party but we also have cadre members, and we know we need both. We must develop our cadre in a more systematically and structured way, we need clearer standards in order to achieve this

The four points listed as cadre qualifications from the CP Club Guidelines are as follows: “Communists judge cadre for leadership on the basis of their proven qualities: (1) devotion to the cause of the working class and Party; (2) political development and ability to apply the science of Marxism-Leninism; (3) capabilities; (4) ability to learn and develop.” This is short and vague, and nothing else is stated to clarify. What do these standards mean and how are they measured?

In developing standards for cadre, we could look to both our own Party history and at Communist practices around the world. This likely means some sort of preliminary period (even a few months) within the pathway to prove discipline. It definitely means specific ideological development through Marxist-Leninist classes and organizer training, proven work, and the ability to represent our line publicly. The Party must develop practices to measure these categories.

Due to naturally uneven development, not all of the above-suggested structures in this section would be able to be carried out right away across all districts. Some – such as concrete scientific analysis and measurement around goal setting – could immediately begin to be set in motion in all Party collectives to make us sharper. Various modes of organization can be implemented in standardized and interconnected ways across localities as collectives are able.

We are at a time when we must begin thinking seriously about how to move towards a more strongly nationally-coordinated organization, both for the tremendous strides we’ve made and the stark trials we know are ahead of us.


Through these principles we’ve built our unions and mass political organizations. Organizers in our own Party ranks across industries. Warehouse associates, home care aides, postal workers, EMTs, teachers and professors, baristas, cashiers, clerks, auto-workers, scientists, and so many others. This is how we build our organizations; this is how we’ve won our victories.

In any mass democratic organization, grassroots energy is so important. But structure, guidance, and leadership at the top, based on scientific analysis and with adept responsiveness is also required for success. As William Z. Foster taught us we must always remember: “Organization does not [simply] happen; it is made to happen.”

We have grown immensely in the Communist Party in the last 5 years. We have a strong general program. We are building good educational work. We are working hard in so many areas of struggle and can be found as leaders in many key movements around the country. But our Party needs to be organized. And that does not happen by chance. We know from our own history and training what is to be done to better organize ourselves and to do the serious work required by the world right now.

We face fascism, COVID, looming climate disaster, the genocide of Palestinians and a growing US imperial machine, rising homelessness, stagnant wages, increased racist violence and hate-crimes, and so much more. We must organize the unorganized, across the working class, and in our own ranks. It is our duty to the workers and oppressed of the world. And if we do it right, we can help lead a giant general strike on May 1st, 2028, we can build the next version of the CIO, we can defeat growing the fascist threat, we can dismantle the imperial machine, and we can build the interracial working-class revolutionary force needed to defeat the Capitalist and Imperialist terror.

An organized Communist Party can lead the fight to win a world the workers deserve.


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