Convention Discussion: In Support of the Party Program – Our experience in Houston

BY: Alvaro Rodriguez| March 18, 2014

Submitted by Alvaro C. Rodriguez, Houston, Texas.

Many questions face the party for proceeding forward in the 21st Century.  Of utmost concern is the issue of growing a broad based coalition while enduring the tyranny of mass media propaganda towards the Left and communists, especially.  Some new ideas have been brought forward from the Party leadership in an effort to address these.  The majority of the ideas deal with changing the terms or icons that are used in the party, such as “democratic centralism”, “scientific socialism”, “vanguard role of the party”, and “Leninism” with the aim of not turning off people to our ideas. While these proposals seem rather limited and have been tried in the past without much success, it is important to re-evaluate our successes and failures and to identify where we can do better on our journey to transform this country.  The collective experience here in Houston has given us some insight into the issues of growing the party locally.

To start with, our Houston branch went through turmoil and factionalism that split our membership in the summer of 2012.  The factionalism began over the issue of whether the party was moving away from the Party Program, a common set of principles and guide to action for which many agreed and signed up for.  Some of the issues which caused a rift can be attributed to an article that Sam Webb had published in Political Affairs in 2011 entitled “A Party of Socialism in the 21st Century: What It Looks Like, What It Says, and What It Does”, which led some of our party members to stray from democratic centralism out of fear that there would be no democracy in a race towards removing the revolutionary essence of the party. This had the effect of disengaging activists and committed communists, splitting the Houston club, and forcing us  to start over.  Bottom line, the official local club had to rebuild with ~6 people and no funds.  A new leadership was elected and the party program, “The Road to Socialism USA” became our focus and the guide to rebuilding the party membership and earning a lead role in progressive politics in Houston.

With few people, the party membership in Houston was not able to cover all the bases.  However, a plan for each year was established with goals for membership, fund raising, and key areas in Houston politics that we could make a difference and help unify action.  We began with the SEIU janitor strikes.  We showed up, we marched, we wrote articles for People’s World to help bring attention to the labor negotiations in Houston.  We worked with labor and developed key relationships, which were reflected in having key members of the AFl-CIO attend May Day events.  We became mobile in the immigration reform movement, which is a critical portion of the Houston progressive movement, and contributed to several efforts.  In working in these movements, we tried our best to illuminate that there is a common denominator in our struggle, the ultra-Right, consistently opposing all efforts among the working class.  We went where other activism was fervent in Houston, where we could network, meet more people, activists who shared our passion, enthusiasm, and could see the commonality in the fight.  However, we also realized that we have to keep our theoretical foundation strong to keep our eyes on the prize; the ultimate transformation of power from the ruling minority capitalist class to the majority working class. Study classes on all aspects of socialist thought were re-invigorated.  Topics range from Marx’s Capital, Lenin’s Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, to recent events, such as the turmoil in Ukraine.  Along the way, a comrade found a way to open our classes to a broader community using the site to help promote, recruit, and increase our foundation for scientific socialism.  Through working in the movements, trying to unify different organizations efforts, and opening our party classes to anyone, has helped grow our membership.  Finding common ground and ignoring issues that split our movement has been effective, while always keeping our focus on the long term strategy.  We still struggle like everyone, to keep our membership engaged and committed, but the more engaged we have become using the strategy laid out in the party program, the more people see the good work that we do and become attracted to our party and our core principles.  

Keeping focused on our yearly plan of work and eyes open for opportunities has been working and steadily increasing our local party membership.  We leveraged the party program and constitution as best possible with the conditions we have in Houston.  In Houston, we found that the issues of removing Lenin, dropping democratic centralism, dropping scientific socialism, dropping the vanguard role of the party, has not served to bring unity to our party and resulted in a major setback for us.  When we focused on the work, using the guide to action from the party program (focusing on the Marxist-Leninist analysis applied to our conditions in the United States and Houston in particular), and began laying the foundations, we saw significant growth.

The key areas where we think improvements can be made are developing structures that can help each local organization grow.  How do we maximize lessons learned across the party, so every local group can gain practical advice and gather unique ideas from positive developments from other clubs (not limited to each State) but from all areas across the US.  How can promote direct communication with various clubs across the US?  Some simple means to communicate would help us in our endeavor to find out what works in organizing efforts and what hasn’t worked.  While ideas may range from recruiting tactics to organizational schemes, clubs with less experience can benefit as well as experienced clubs who struggle with modern technology.

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


    Alvaro Rodriguez is International Secretary of the CPUSA.

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