At the core of the Party’s multi-faceted growth

BY:Juan Lopez| July 15, 2011

This report on behalf of the Subcommittee on Recruitment and Consolidation of Core Forces  was adopted by a meeting of the National Committee of the Communist Party USA, June 26, 2011. 

This report is the product of several discussions at the leadership level, including the National Coordinating Committee (CC), the National Board (NB), the National Committee (NC) and the subcommittee – Joelle, Scott, John, and Juan as convener – assigned to elaborate its content. Sam and Terrie made independent contributions as well.

The subcommittee was charged with developing a report on the topic of recruitment and consolidation generally, with focus on building the party and press among core forces. By “core forces” we mean the working class and its organized sector, racially and nationally oppressed people, women and youth.

Overall political framework

Whether our country’s political balance leans right or left has deep-going consequences beyond our borders, given the dominant place our nation still occupies in the world.

In contrast with the “special interests” of the right wing in promoting transnational capital, the party has no interests separate and apart from those of the working class and people.

It is precisely this premise that is becoming clearer to an ever-growing number of our fellow Americans who are getting to know us through our press and social networking in cyberspace, as well as through the party’s activities on the ground, face-to-face.

As the pace, reach and quality of our work grows, it will become even clearer to those coming in contact with us that a more influential and larger Communist Party is a necessary and potentially achievable goal.

Our party arises from among the ranks of the working people, in all their hues and tongues. Our needs and aspirations are the same as those of millions of our compatriots. But, in the struggles of the present, we also represent the interests of the future movement of working people. In this last sense, we exhibit unique qualities that are also being recognized with increased frequency.

What are these unique attributes?

  • Our rich experience gained through over 90 years of class and democratic struggle.
  • Our strategic and tactical acumen.
  • Our flexible application of Marxist methodology.
  • Our selfless commitment to struggle.
  • Our principled stances in the fight for racial, national and gender equality.
  • Our internationalist outlook.
  • Our working-class partisanship.
  • Our vision of a far more democratic, socialist USA at peace with the world and nature.

These interdependent qualities, when combined with a more influential and bigger party, will advance exponentially the size, unity and collective power of labor with that of the racially and nationally oppressed, women and youth, the forces at the core of the movements for fundamental change.

So the task before us is to grow our party and press and help the YCL grow in size and influence from among a widespread cross-section of the American people but especially from among the core forces.

Why focus on core forces?

The bull’s-eye of our working class focus is its organized sector, the labor movement. As our National Chairman Sam Webb has said more than once: “This sector, with its political understanding, experience, organization, know-how, tactical acumen, and resources” has emerged at the core of a revitalized working class and people’s coalition.

The struggle for racial and gender equality is at the core of our outlook and practice. “The ruling class well understands,” Comrade Webb says, “that the convergence of labor, the nationally and racially oppressed, and women constitutes its most formidable foe and presages a future without exploitation and oppression.”

After all, the nationally and racially oppressed and women are not simply objects of super-exploitation and oppression, but also fighters, organizers, and unifiers. They bring insights and understandings to every struggle; and they bridge the main sectors of the people’s movements.

But the picture would not be complete if we were to leave out the youth. The youth are not only the future but also the present.

The youth bring enthusiasm, energy, initiative and a wellspring of political and technical knowledge. Together with the other core forces, they are fighting to reshape the political and electoral map in the people’s favor. Witness their role and huge turnout to elect our nation’s first African American president and defeat the Republican right in the 2008 elections. The same goes for their role in Wisconsin’s labor-led popular uprising, and the list goes on and on.

In short, the labor-led core forces are the central component of the multi-class, multigenerational, socially varied all-people’s coalition to push back and defeat the far right in the 2012 elections. The core forces are also the pivotal force that will lead us through the different stages on the road to socialism and in the construction of the new society.

While we must have an eye to growing the party, YCL and press among all the people, our focus is the labor movement in unison with the other core forces.

A much bigger party, YCL and press readership will boost by many times the efforts to organize the unorganized in the workplaces of America, as well as help organize the people’s movements in the neighborhoods, campuses, and generally in society at the local, state and national levels.

Growth as a process

We see today’s discussion and those leading up to it as part of a process of taking the national conference in April to the next level, to build on the approaches outlined by the National Conference and the National Board.** (See below for Board decisions).

Among the achievements to be noted in the short period since the conference are the hugely successful party/YCL regional schools and the national call to new members.

We hope today’s discussion results in some specific plans for the different aspects of recruitment and consolidation, concentrating on the core forces. But we caution against putting together too tight or too fast a plan, in order to allow for the fullest possible involvement of the districts and membership in the discussions and the cross-fertilization of experiences and creative ideas.

The party’s close collaboration with the YCL is an integral part of the growth and strengthening of both organizations. Cooperation with the YCL is seen as an important aspect of the party’s work among the youth, and the other core forces in their ranks.

We see discussions in the NB and NC as part of an ongoing process with periodic reviews, taking into account progress made and problems – new and recurring – to be resolved. We should allow ample space for the plans to reflect the balance of forces at any particular stage, and the state of the popular movements (especially labor and other core forces) and the party, YCL and press at the time. The 2012 elections could well be a turning point, one way or the other. So we’ll have to assess the situation in the election’s aftermath, make necessary adjustments and devise a general plan accordingly.

Online & neighborhood and workplace activity

The interaction and interdependence of online activity with workplace and neighborhood efforts (campus, place of worship, etc.) is an organic one. They are complementary, not in contention.

Workplace and neighborhood concentration among the core forces continues to be a necessary/strategic component of any plan to build the party and one to strive for in different areas as opportunities open up.

The few districts that have been concentrating in working class neighborhoods where African American and Latinos predominate are growing (with varying degrees of success) among these critical sectors of the people.

Behind this growth is often years of painstaking work to engage prospective members in projects and activities they see as important, generating education and organizational experience at the same time valuable short term goals are reached.

At the same time, online recruiting is opening up a new world of possibilities for communicating with the people and our membership, offering a much wider audience for our views as well as greater opportunity to sense the pulse of what working people are going through and thinking. It is allowing us to fine-tune our strategy and tactics accordingly.

It is opening up new forms of entry into the party’s orbit and new forms of party involvement.

In several areas of the country, most notably the South, new internet members are coming together face-to-face – through their own initiative and/or through that of our field organizers. These new member clusters are developing into clubs, depending on how quickly club leadership emerges.

As with on-the-ground organizing, one key goal of internet-generated collectives is to build the party over time in communities and workplaces as we grow and opportunities open up. We’re not alone in this. A major goal of and Organizing for America continues to be formations at the neighborhood level, using online communication to facilitate people working together in an area.

This has enhanced electoral and other political/social activities at the neighborhood level as well as brought together initiatives by neighbors with labor and progressive movements around actions at congressional and state legislative district offices, for example.

The use of online communication and relationship-building by the labor movement and other core forces and social movements also enhances face-to-face contact; for example, the all-important precinct walking during elections.

Similarly, the labor movement is employing online tools to boost on-the-ground workplace organizing. In one recent example, the use of Facebook is allowing workplace organizers at Wal-Mart to break through some of the difficulties in building union support among the workers being closely monitored by this rabidly union-busting outfit.

The lesson here: We need to focus on developing approaches that combine spontaneous growth with more conscious approaches using both virtual and face-to-face forms.

Online activity is allowing us to grow in numbers and influence, however modestly at the moment, in areas like the South and key swing states, that can make a difference in next year’s elections. This has great potential for the more distant future as well.

In addition, we are currently developing our work through forms that function primarily online, like Facebook, with positive results.

The recent national discussion on education touched on some additional forms, including the Webinar educational for new members and national monthly online topical forums with members and friends.

We must also be open to exploring and experimenting with new forms that have not yet come into focus – at least not our focus. This is especially important as we reach out to members and new members in remote areas.

Many of our meetings at the national, district and even club level where distances are an issue are now being conducted by conference call. With Skype, we could be conducting them virtually “face-to-face!”

Targeting core forces with online tools

The challenge is how to hone in on the core forces using online tools more widely and systematically.

Terrie, who was unable to be part of the subcommittee, prepared an eye-opening report on online targeting of different constituencies in relation to our press. Soon, the YCL will be embarking on a similar targeting campaign.

Speaking about the Facebook ads Terrie has been working on, she says:

“With targeting tools, and a little creative thinking, you can target ‘people of color, women and trade unionists,’ and so our readership is more diversified. As a matter of fact, it is 54 percent women…and 22 percent – the largest group overall – are girls 13 through 17!” She adds, “I think that may have been a result of my Pink campaign…my daughter helped me with that!

“So far, I targeted African American, Latino, women and union users in special campaigns which all resulted in thousands of more readers in these groups.

“How you target on Facebook is a major consideration because you target by interests, mainly…so to reach specific groups you have to think of possible interests…I am still learning.”

Terrie concludes, “I have not developed the advertising on the CPUSA page in a similar way.” She says the reasons include lack of “time and energy.” Also, the “interaction of the page is a big issue! It has to be a living breathing page and right now it isn’t…It takes a lot of time to keep up a good and growing Facebook page, and I just haven’t switched gears from PW to CPUSA focus.”

The YCL is also engaged in a Facebook targeting campaign now reaching young workers, women and young people of color to complement spontaneous growth among students and youth generally.

The YCL is considering – perhaps jointly with the party – a pilot advertising project, even if only for a month, that goes beyond Facebook to include the mass media. This means consulting with comrades who are media savvy and experienced in public relations.

In these national party, press and YCL projects, the CC and NB should consider how to make greater use of the wealth of talent out there, especially among our newer, younger members experienced in online communication. Comrades who are at home with online tools could also employ their skills to expand their own personal and political network of friends among the core forces.

Education as a tool
On this score, among the things to consider are educational approaches that deepen the understanding of new and long-time members about the critical importance of building the party, YCL and press among workers and trade unionists, people of color, women and youth.

In this connection, we should consider a special educational approach on the centrality of the fight against racism and the struggle for equality, taking into account new developments in the composition of the working class and conditions facing the different racial and national sectors of our population. That includes the impact of extreme rightwing policies.

A similar educational approach should be considered on the crucial importance of the fight against gender discrimination.

How the class struggle and the struggles for race and gender equality are integrally connected has to be at the core of the special educational approach. Related to this is the struggle for the needs and rights of youth, seniors, immigrants, the LGBT community, disabled people, and other discriminated groups.

A concrete discussion of the current role of the labor movement should be included, as should discussion of the particular movements for racial and national equality of African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, immigrants, other especially oppressed, women, and youth today, and their interconnection, in the struggle for unity with the labor movement.

The role and growth of the party, YCL and press should be an integral part of this process.

Education generally should be focused on consolidating new members as well as on influencing tens of thousands (eventually millions), pulling people into the party orbit and recruiting.

Action in today’s battles

At the same time that we adjust our educational approach, we must continue to encourage greater participation by new and long-time members in the struggles to build and unify the labor movement with the movements of the other core forces.

Needless to say, the pitched battles to save the public sector, the jobs of those employed by it and those benefiting from social programs, are critical to guaranteeing the size and strength of the labor movement.

They are crucial to the African American and Latino communities, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and Native Americans in many parts of the country, and women generally – all of whom have been well represented in the workforce and on whom millions of families depend.

The importance of these battles to students and to young workers in or close to entering the workforce, is critical. And to senior citizens who should be entitled to enjoy securely the fruits of a lifetime of work.

We must redouble efforts to encourage new and long-time members not already engaged to become involved in defense of public workers and the social programs being destroyed. In areas where our comrades are fully involved, we are winning workers and their families among the core forces to appreciate the unique role of our/their press and party.

With respect to our country’s economic reconfiguration, a factor in our minds has to be the changing composition of the workforce (along with downsizing) in production and the large growth in retail.

The labor movement is now singling out organizing the “Target” superstore chain, where women, people of color and young workers predominate. So, the districts along with the YCL must become deeply involved in this organizing campaign at the worksite, the community and the campuses. In this process we can build the party, YCL and press.

The YCL is now laying the foundation for a campaign for jobs for youth, employing both online tools and grassroots activity. Earlier experiences on this score resulted in recruiting large numbers of young people who, in turn, helped boost the movement for jobs.

“As for communists and communist party clubs,” Comrade Webb emphasized in the report approved by the NC, “the struggle against austerity and for jobs is the ground zero of our work. Everything we do and say and write should somehow relate to this task.”

“Nothing is more important that the ideological and political strengthening” of the movement against the Republican right’s austerity assault and for job creation, he says.

In the process, he adds, the challenge is “how can we build a bigger left and Communist Party – both of which are necessary for any sustained and far-reaching political advances?”

Education, discussion, action…radicalization

Through education, discussion and action, our new as well as our long-time members can be drawn into the fight for growth in a balanced way, so the composition of the party reflects that of the nation, especially the core forces.

For example, in the face of a racist onslaught by the right wing, an understanding of the role of white workers and people generally in the fight against racism will greatly facilitate the well-rounded growth of the party, YCL and press.

The rightwing attacks on the democratic right of public workers to collective bargaining has awakened a much wider understanding of the role of unions.

One proof of this is that as a result of the battles with Wisconsin’s governor and Republican-controlled legislature, labor has recently organized five new college campuses in that state.

The economic crisis has triggered a mass questioning of capitalism.

With these developments has come a marked growth in interest in socialism and communism, as several public opinion polls have confirmed.

No doubt, the new and reconfigured emergence of nations pursuing a socialist path in Latin America and Asia has encouraged this process.

However, anti-communism has been resurrected in new form by the rightwing, and still has a grip on sections of the people. At the same time, the deep-seated fear of communism and Communists prevalent prior to the Soviet Union’s debacle 20 years ago has lost its potency among large sections of the American people.

In this latter grouping are a growing number of those questioning capitalism and searching for a more people-friendly system.

Our challenge is how to take fuller advantage of this development to grow the press, party and YCL at a quicker pace, in such a way as to attract a cross-section of the American people, especially among the core forces.

Our daily online media continues to gain steady readership by the thousands monthly. Our articles are being picked up with increased frequency by labor and other popular movements, run on their online sites which are read by tens of thousands as well as sent out to their extensive email lists.

For some time now, labor and people’s leaders and rank-and-file activists readily agree to be honored alongside our own mass leaders and activists at People’s World/Mundo Popular at well-attended banquets and public events.

It is more common now to see our members openly known as Communists being recognized publicly, in their capacity as mass leaders, at events sponsored by labor and other popular movements.

More recently, in a few cases our comrades have organized events directly in the name of clubs of the Communist Party or Young Communist League that have been well attended, especially by African American and Latino workers, students and their families who keep coming back.

All of these are no small feats that come with the new times and with dedicated, consistent political work over the years.

We need to take a closer look at party, YCL and press work in different districts and clubs, and involve the membership as well as leadership in this process, in order to allow for the cross-fertilization of experiences and creative ideas that will catapult us forward.

The respect and prestige for our party has grown markedly in recent years because of the soundness of our policies and the generally skillful and selfless manner in which our members carry them out.

All of which is fertile ground for further party/YCL/press growth.

Tough questions

Wherever we’re involved with workers in struggle, it is beginning to pay off in new readers to our press and in strengthened relations with the party.

In some districts, party growth has been primarily out of involvement in mass movements and struggles at the neighborhood or regional level.

We’ll have to take a closer look at why, in other districts so far, recruitment out of mass struggles continues to be sporadic. Why our mass activists, with some notable exceptions, are unable to bring into the party more of those with whom they’ve been working over the years.

However, generally our steady growth has been mainly internet-driven and spontaneous.

A common perception in our ranks is that growth on this last front has been largely white, male, young and among students. This is a most welcomed development!

Our party is the revolutionary home of our multiracial, multinational, native-born and foreign-born, male and female, young and old, straight and gay, working people. Our nation’s working class and people consist of families including students, many of whom are being forced to work and study at the same time, and all of whom will eventually fully join the ranks of the working class to pursue their careers or trades.

But a closer look at the composition of those joining may reveal a somewhat different picture.

Scott points out in his recent visits to the Carolinas a majority of new internet members (who bring others they know along) are white but usually older, with quite a few workers among them. Perhaps, he surmises, the Carolinas’ experience is influenced by the low union density, which drives workers in search of justice to gravitate more easily to the party in the absence of union presence.

A difference between those joining online and in person was observed. Those joining face to face are doing so out of struggle. Most of those joining online are looking for ways to join struggle. Frustrated and angry with capitalism, they tend to see struggle mainly as agitation for socialism and the party. The challenge is to connect them to current struggles.

New members relate to the party in a wide variety of ways. Some, from day one, are anxious to become involved in current clubs or taking initiative to form new clubs. Others prefer more informal arrangements.

While we want to encourage involvement in clubs, that should not be a precondition for membership. In fact, based on a recent National Committee decision, that is not a precondition. Once new members pay dues, we embrace them with open arms.

None of us can afford to miss the boat, when millions are questioning the validity of capitalism and tens of thousands are looking for a socialist alternative. Think of it.

Our challenge is to make our institutions available to these millions, to pull them into the party’s orbit of influence. Eventually, thousands upon thousands will want to join the party and YCL, and millions will want to read our press regularly.

What’s more, the new members bring with them enthusiasm and a determination to extend the reach and influence of our institutions through their personal relations on the ground and online. They are among our best recruiters.

Our party offers what no other organization in our country does as consistently and clearly. We project an alternative to capitalism – a far more democratic, socialist vision – and a path to get there while fighting today for more immediate, partial gains for working people.

As we grow, if we’re serious about being an electoral party, able to influence the electoral process, run candidates, and win elections (on whatever label and at whatever level) we must use all the tools available to us online and on-the-ground.

We must wholeheartedly embrace new members regardless of their point of origin or the level of their involvement in the party. The point is to draw millions into the gravitational pull of the party, YCL and press.

Otherwise, we would be doing a disservice to ourselves and, more importantly, to the American people. We would be letting down the world’s people clamoring for us to do our part to change our nation’s role in the world. After all, we all want the same thing: peace, a more people-friendly, equitable, environmentally, economically and politically sustainable global economic order.


In order to get a more accurate picture of why and who is joining through the internet and what people expect from the party and YCL, John is going to take it up with the party membership committee and the YCL leadership.

We want to find out common patterns of age, gender, racial, national and ethnic composition, whether a worker or student (or both), employed or unemployed, occupation, in a union or not, in a movement or not (and, if so, what movements), the reason for joining.

Likewise, in order to get a clearer picture of how recruiting is going in the districts, we drew up a set of questions for the districts:

  1. Are people joining?
  2. Has there been an increase or decrease?
  3. How are they coming to join?
  4. What are the different ways they’re joining?
  5. What role is our press playing in bringing people into the party and YCL orbits?
  6. Who are they? What’s their composition?
  7. In which ways are new members relating to the party and YCL? Are they getting integrated into the party and/or YCL? What’s your experience with consolidation of new members?
  8. What’s in your mind concerning recruitment, and consolidation?
In districts, rubber hits the road

Our best experiences are going to be through the districts. How well we follow up in the districts, in person and online, is where the rubber hits the road.

The subcommittee agreed that the best results come if we draw on concrete experience at district and club levels.

We further propose:

  1. Periodic discussion in the National Board after a presentation by a district or club drawing on their concrete experience (problems, possibilities and successes). Comrades making the presentation should be given in advance the seven questions above, be asked to quantify (report on how many new members, etc.) and to give their thinking.
  2. Discussions at the district and club levels on concrete problems, possibilities and successes in recruitment generally and among core forces, and in consolidation. Districts organize such discussion whenever a national comrade is visiting.
  3. The discussions should result in concrete steps to overcome problems and take advantage of possibilities.
  4. An educational approach along the lines outlined above.
  5. Special national meetings later this year on the fight against racism and for equality of African Americans, Latinos and immigrants.
  6. In addition to current educational initiatives, a plan for travelling schools in unorganized and organized areas.

We are already seeing measurable results in membership and readership growth from initiatives taken since the National Conference in April. As all party and YCL members become more fully engaged in reaching out to the people, especially the ranks of the core forces, it is with full confidence that we can foresee a quickening pace of growth and declare: “Si, se puede!”

** Below are the proposals that were adopted either at the NC or at a follow-up meeting of the NB. Appropriate collectives are in the process of implementing them and the CC is overseeing the process.
  1. Set date for 2012 conference (need to check primary calendar) and secure housing a.s.a.p.
  2. Establish Conference Organizing Committee earlier in fall.
  3. Circulate reports: Sam (and Ustream broadcast), Jarvis, Scotty, Roberta, Rick, etc. and other content.
  4. District meetings to follow up and develop specific plans for mass involvement, expanding readership of websites, auto-sustainer campaign, other party building measures, schools, etc.
  5. National call to new members.
  6. Completion of successful youth schools in Chicago, Orlando and Dallas.
  7. Special projects:
    • NY, MA, etc.
    • ads in flagship university newspapers, African American, Latino media markets, labor-oriented markets, Facebook, etc.
  8. Review of websites for content and image.
  9. Evaluation of conference with survey monkey.



    Juan Lopez is chairman of the Communist Party in northern California and statewide coordinator. He has been a labor and community activist during the nearly forty years he's lived in Oakland, where he and his wife raised three children. He was formerly a member of the Teamsters union and a shop steward.

Related 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