Convention Discussion: Communist candidates — strategy and tactics

BY: CPUSA Political Action Commission| March 20, 2014

Submitted by the Political Action Commission of the Communist Party USA.

There is a renewed interest in running Communist Party candidates for public office.  The why, when and how should be considered in the context of our current overall electoral strategy, and the concrete facts of each particular campaign.

When reactionary extremists grabbed control of the Republican Party over 30 years ago, their powerful corporate backers were positioning themselves to dismantle every democratic gain that had been won over decades for worker rights, civil rights, women’s rights, environmental rights, voting rights, etc.

The Communist Party USA was quick to recognize the danger posed  by right-wing extremist domination of the apparatus of the state.  We developed a popular front strategy taking into account the popular front to defeat fascism during World War II.  

We prioritized building a broad, multi-class alliance on economic, social, environmental and peace issues of common concern.  At the same time we emphasized within that alliance our own role to strengthen the core forces for social change of which we are a part: the labor movement (unionized workers), African American, Latino, Native American, Asian-Pacific, women and youth. The proposition has been proven in life that these groups are key because, based on experience and need, they are the most progressive and class conscious voters and have the potential to raise the struggle to a higher level.  

From this alliance emerged the election and re-election of President Barack Obama.  The significance is the amazing determination and involvement that overcame voter suppression, big money, racist ads and dirty tricks.  Maintaining and mobilizing that voter determination on immediate issues of concern is at the heart of the epic battle to defeat the obstructionist extreme right-wing in Congress and state houses, and move the country forward.

The right-wing danger has not gone away, it has intensified.  At the same time, the years of

resistance and struggle against this obstruction have opened new doors.  Local candidates have emerged out of these ranks in many parts of the country. A progressive mayor was elected in New York City for the first time in decades; the labor movement is building up its own independent political infrastructure and union members have been elected to city councils and state legislatures; socialists have been elected to local government; and parties like Working Families and Progressive Party in Vermont are growing.  

There is also a renewed interest in running Communist candidates reflecting both the readiness of a new generation of members ready to stand for election as Communists, and the estimate by some that a section of the public is willing to consider fundamental alternatives to the current policies of those who seek to advance the interests of the corporate elite.

Communists have been elected to public office in some localities in non-partisan elections, and in some localities on other tickets as part of a coalition, including publicly known Communists. The Political Action Commission has established a network of Progressive Public Officials so those in and around the Communist Party can exchange experiences and ideas and provide mutual support in governance.

Where do candidates identifying as the Communist Party fit into this epic battle?  This has to be thought through in each specific local situation, by ourselves and with our allies in the labor movement and community organizations.  

We have to take into consideration: What is the political balance of forces in that race?  How will a candidacy strengthen multi-racial unity against the extreme right-wing?  How will a candidacy strengthen relations with our allies in labor and community?  How will a candidacy raise class consciousness in the community?  What concrete local issues will the candidacy be based on relating to the ongoing struggles in that area? How can that local candidacy connect local issues to our national program for jobs, equality and peace? What are the election laws?  Will this campaign be in a non-partisan election, on the Communist Party ticket or other?

By raising the profile of our Party in that community, such a race can attract youth and others alienated by the system who are looking for a political home.  It responds to the growing distrust of capitalism and interest in socialism.  With a concrete local program, it can help build organization to win needs and better lives.

Our electoral work has many facets, and they should not be placed one against the other. Experience has shown that building relationships in the course of any campaign that is challenging the right-wing agenda can result in new members for the Communist Party who are looking for longer term solutions to poverty and inequality.  

A bigger Communist Party can make a bigger contribution toward building the kind of huge national movements on critical issues that can break through the right-wing logjam.

Expanding our field of candidates whether on the Communist Party ticket, in non-partisan elections, in coalitions or otherwise, it will take a concerted effort from all levels of the Party.  

Our convention should encourage such explorations. The Political Action Commission is prepared to assist in developing analysis and finding resources for candidate and campaign trainings.  

As well, our convention should prioritize efforts to democratize national and local election laws to put an end to voter suppression and adopt methods that expand the democratic process such as instant runoff voting, proportional representation, non-partisan elections and repeal of Citizens United.

The views and opinions expressed in the Convention Discussion are those of the author alone. The Communist Party is publishing these views as a service to encourage discussion and debate. Those views do not necessarily reflect the views of the Communist Party, its leading bodies or staff members. The CPUSA Constitution, Program, and all its existing policies remain in effect during the Convention discussion period and during the Convention.

For details about the convention, visit the Convention homepage
To contribute to the discussion, visit the Convention Discussion webpage

30th National Convention, Communist Party USA
Chicago | June 13-15, 2014


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