Convention Discussion: The two choices ahead of us

BY: Bernard Sampson| May 29, 2014

Submitted by Bernard Sampson, Houston, TX

We have seen that there are some ideological differences in our party. I think they all revolve around two things: Doing things the old way and looking at new ways of doing things. As Marxists we should realize that the ideological differences that exist in our party can never be resolved by debate but only by action. Our views have to be put to the test in the real world. First, one has to ask oneself if we are satisfied with the size of our party and the influence it has within the civil rights and working-class movements. I think all of us can agree that none of us are satisfied at this point. So the question becomes how to increase our influence, our membership, and reach our goals of a Socialist USA.

The best way to look at this is to look at the clubs that exist in the party today. Most clubs are small and they don’t show much growth. The question is why? I’m sure no comrades in the party want small clubs. So let’s look at our club in Houston as an example. A year and a half ago we broke with the old club because of its sectarian and dogmatic attitude toward comrades in the club and the rest of the progressive movement. For many years our club had 13 to 15 members. We would recruit 2 to 3 members a year and lose about the same amount. I think this is very much like many clubs throughout the United States. In the old club we were marginalized from the movement around us in Houston Texas. What did we do wrong? We were dedicated, we worked hard, but something must’ve been lacking. We only found out what was lacking after an ideological struggle in our club. It started with attacks against the leadership of the party and turning the club inward instead of outward. We kept hearing that Marxist-Leninism and democratic centralism were under attack and that we were moving in a social democratic direction. But most of us felt that where we were at the time was a dead-end. And that if we going as before the club would only stay small and isolated from the mass movement.

So we looked at the party leadership and decided we would move in this new direction. We changed the way we talked to people both in and outside the club. We changed many of the forms but not the content of our politics. We felt that being revolutionary meant being open to new ideas and getting better results than what we got before. And guess what? The club changed and became more of what a communist party club should be. We became more outward and less inward. We began to recruit at a greater rate than we lost members. We began to work in the trade union movement and another various coalitions in a new and different way. We found that these coalitions and trade unions began the welcome us, and complement us. We began to recruit from these movements.

Before we made these changes we went to these various movements to try to become a part of them, to ask them if they would accept us in their coalitions. But now our members are in the coalitions and trade unions and helping to build these movements from the inside. We began to have trade union leaders and civil rights leaders in the Houston community come to our club meetings as guests, some as members. We built relationships in the progressive and labor movement that we never had imagined before.

Our club in less than two years grew to 68 members. Our club became more diverse than it ever was before and this reflection of the real community helped us reach out even further. We are now in the process of forming an all women’s committee to reach out to the women’s community and to make the club a more hospitable place for women. We hope to do the same thing with our African-American party members. We feel that if other clubs in our country transformed themselves in the way we have, they could grow 5 to 6 times their membership in a year and a half. Think what this would mean for the growth of the Communist Party nationally.

It’s easy: just drop the dogmatism, sectarianism, and the love of the past. Results are what count. Talk is cheap. Make no mistake our club is following the suggestions of the current party leadership. Make no mistake we consider ourselves revolutionary Marxists. We are not social Democrats or reformists. We have now become the largest left organization in Houston Texas. We are larger than the Green party, and all the other leftists formations. We have weekly Marxists study groups which are attended by 9 to 31 people every Tuesday night. We have full-time union organizers in our club. We have two African-American pastors in our club. We have veterans in our club. We had a large contingent at the recent Mayday Parade in which we carried red banners and American flags. Many people came to our literature table and we recruited 10 people that day alone.

Any club can do this. It’s up to you, change and grow, stay the same and wilt on the vine. I want to make clear that numbers alone mean little. But without numbers we will go nowhere. I want a socialist America and to get there we need to mobilize millions across the country. Not talk about it but do it. I’m not aware of any club which is growing that sticks to the old ways. I’ve been in the party since around 1978. This is the first time I’ve seen growth in a club at this rate both in quantity and quality. I invite anyone in the USA to come and visit us and see how we conduct club meetings and see the work that we do in the various fields that Communists work in. We work in the ideological, political, and the economic struggles. Soon we may be forming a new club because we have too many members for one club. We figure we have of our 68 members around 35 activists. We started our club with 13 members. We could easily form two clubs and they would hopefully each grow to 60 members in a year and a half as our club did. This is how it’s done. But it will never be done as long as our members are dogmatic, sectarian, and care more about the words than their content.

We have found that comrades who hold to the old ways are not the ones recruiting into the club. One would think that this might hit home. Our comrades in the club who are recruiting and making the important contacts in the labor and civil rights movements are the ones who are trying to implement the new direction of the party leadership. Let’s drop what doesn’t work and adopt what brings results. It’s as easy as that.

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


Related Party Voices Articles

For democracy. For equality. For socialism. For a sustainable future and a world that puts people before profits. Join the Communist Party USA today.

Join Now

We are a political party of the working class, for the working class, with no corporate sponsors or billionaire backers. Join the generations of workers whose generosity and solidarity sustains the fight for justice.

Donate Now

CPUSA Mailbag

If you have any questions related to CPUSA, you can ask our experts
  • QHow does the CPUSA feel about the current American foreign...
  • AThanks for a great question, Conlan.  CPUSA stands for peace and international solidarity, and has a long history of involvement...
Read More
Ask a question
See all Answer