Organizing at the District level: Suggestions from the field

Organizing at the District level: Suggestions from the field


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

Beyond the task of properly assessing and organizing our experienced members to take on tasks that suit them, particularly in leadership positions, there are campaigns and methods of organization that can be implemented by members on the district and club levels. As with drawing lessons from our cadre’s labor and mass-membership organizing for national structure, we can draw lessons for strong organization to apply on the local level as well. In the spirit of camaraderie, self-critique, and creativity, we present suggestions from our labor and mass-membership organizing.

The key methods that connect all of these proposals are:

(a) concrete analysis based on quantitative and qualitative data and

(b) applying this data through coordination and relationships.

Many of these practices or projects are already happening to varying degrees at club and district levels. But the application is experimental and left up to the districts to implement. More standardized and coordinated application of some or all of these, guided by the National Committee and relevant national commissions, helped with the National Organizational Secretary and implemented with aid from District Organizers, can help build the projects we already have going to the next level

Concrete (numerical, measurable) analysis of our projects and goals

To grow purposefully and strategically, every organization has to take stock of where they are compared to where they want to be. Then they go from there for every aspect of the project, and continue to check-in in this way. We must be the same in our Party.

We must be scientific and experimental. We must be creative! Trying old, new, and combinations of old and new things. We must see “we did X and we got Y result, so we’re gonna continue” or “we did A, and we got B result, so we’re gonna stop.” Overall we must assess with hard numbers and measurable factors, and then keep excellent records, to move forward scientifically. Leadership and collectives cannot make appropriate decisions without materially knowing where we’re at, and quantitative goals, assessments, decisions are a part of basically every step.

Committees with Roles, Standards, and Duties

As organizations grow, it is critical that positions of leadership come with expectations and standards. Basic in these standards is generally connection to activity on-the-ground, in the heart of a struggle, and showing up to meetings. Once these basics are developed, expanded standards include results-guided expectations of our different roles.

Recognizing this critical structure, in “Build the Party, Build the Clubs,” the National Committee suggests that “at the club level, one important step [for organization] would be to work towards electing chairpersons [or co-chairs], organizational secretaries (or coordinators), and education directors.” New clubs needn’t (and shouldn’t) rush to give people titles just for the sake of titles, but as collectives develop, the so-called hyper-democracy of horizontal positions often removes accountability and limits real democracy. There’s always people taking the lead on certain aspects even in committees without titles, so a lack of titles can obfuscate who is and has been responsible. Collectivity and consensus are important skills to develop, but as practitioners of democratic-centralism, we should be mindful of straying into anarchistic or idealistic structures.

Reimplementing District Organizers as a Nation-wide Practice

District Organizers have historically served a key role in building the Communist Party across the country. But as the Party went through crisis and membership numbers and activity shrank, this organizing position often fell out of practice. We should bring it back! Just as strong national unions often have divisions of labor among dedicated organizers, so must we. D.O.s can help bottom-line coordination of active club work, support new and struggling clubs, and develop plans to activate and involve at-large members. This is a role whose scope and expectations will grow as the club activity around the district grows. And as we continue to grow, in districts with major metropolitan areas and high populations, the workload may necessitate these becoming paid positions, though this may not be necessary or possible for some time.

Where D.O.s are not yet able to be in place, districts should consider having organizational committees with multiple members splitting the work of a D.O. up among themselves. Thought about quantitatively-proven organizing skills should be given when selecting the committee. In districts with less experienced leadership, special attention and training should be given by the National Organizational Secretary.

Mapping and assessing our own membership

Internal power-mapping of membership is important. As Communists, we often strive to take in considerations around race, nationality, immigration status, disability, gender, sexual orientation, and all other democratic struggles when recruiting, advancing leaders, and foregrounding struggles. As organizers, it is also very important to have a strong, and well-recorded sense of members’ connections and membership in various organizations, religious institutions, workplaces, and especially unions.

Thoroughly knowing our membership’s community connections, experiences, skills, and interests is key to coordinating work, and also attracting members to become activated. Mapping members’ connections to each other can also help us organize more activated members to bring in less-activated members. Moving people along the classic labor organizing bullseye – of core activists, supporters, and disengaged members – can be a useful analogy to think upon.

Targeted recruitment

We need membership goals! Both qualitative and quantitative. Outside of spontaneous ideological and social factors, we can’t grow without a target. This is true both nationally and locally. The current recruitment model into the Party is often just self-selection; this needs to change. Self-selection has brought in some wonderful people and should not be done away with in a mass party, but we need to seek out the kind of people we want to bring into the Party.

We can recruit strong candidates from organizations in our orbit and from struggles we are a part of, and recruit respected organizers and popular figures we work alongside. Further we need to recruit in communities and in areas in which we’re lacking. Additionally we need to assess what’s wrong; make plans to do better; and keep trying until our goals are reached.

Importantly, we need to be brutally honest with our self-critique in this area. In too many clubs, we are over-represented by white or male members in places where this membership does not map onto the working-class population of the given geographic area. In the workplace, you need strength in every department and shift of the shop-floor to win a union campaign. Similarly, in society, we’ll need every segment of the working class to not just ultimately win revolution, but even a truly organized community leading up to it. As Communists, we not only strive for democratic representation, we work to advance the national struggles of this country in tandem with socialism. It is, frankly, a real problem to have white majority clubs in non-white majority neighborhoods. This must be a priority for clubs to struggle to solve, with help from National and District organizers.



    Ethan Darbee is an activist for socialism.
    Madhav Ramachandran is an activist for socialism.

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