The future of humanity is at stake

BY:CPUSA Organizing Department| May 14, 2003

The impact of a larger Communist Party on the struggles for peace and justice would be critical and significant. Our Party has to give constant attention to building itself, its relationships and influence, its initiative.

We live in exceedingly dangerous times

The ultra-right and corporate domination of our government, the Bush doctrine of preemptive strike and endless war, the attacks on civil rights and liberties, the deepening economic crisis and the looming environmental disasters imperil life itself. The Bush policies constitute the most savage economic, political and ideological attack on the working class, on racially and nationally oppressed communities, women, youth, and seniors, an attack by the most reactionary, most profit-hungry, most militaristic sections of the monopoly ruling class.

Millions want to know if another world is possible. We say that it is not only possible, but that it is necessary for the survival of humanity, that the answer lies in replacing the system of capitalism and ending exploitation and oppression.

Party building takes place in relation to the needs of our working class and people, in their motion and struggle. Our Party is a vital part of the labor and peoples movements, for peace, equality, democracy, and economic and environmental justice.

Recruiting is an essential element of Party building. We have to grow, we have to grow to survive, we have to grow to thrive, we have to grow so we can meet the challenges of the rapidly expanding peace movement and of the labor movement.

The most important part of recruiting is asking people to joinwe often find that people are waiting for us to ask them. We have to discuss what gets in the way of our asking people to join. We have to ask what gets in the way of people we have been working with for years from joining. Many people express respect for the Party, consider themselves socialists and left-wingers, and are eager to work with us in coalitions, movements and organizations. What barriers are in the way of their joining? What barriers do we erect to others joining us? What excuses do we use that get in the way? Do we send any mixed messages to prospective members? How can we send clearer signals?

We cant change all the external barriers quickly, such as lingering and continuing anti-communism, lack of knowledge about Marxism, lack of information about what it means to be a Party member. We can work on these in the course of our Recruiting Drive, and in the course of our on-going work, but these barriers are not going to vanish.

There are other barriers which are within our control. Are we as organized as we should be about getting new subs to the PWW? Do we have recruiting on our agendas as often as needed? Do we have collective discussions about potential recruits? Do we ask people to join who have expressed an interest in the Party? Do we follow up with all Internet recruits, inviting them to events, classes, discussion groups, and meetings?

Our country, our movements, our class need a bigger Communist Party. All the movements need our consistent and principled fight for unity, our determination to bring the working class and union movement into all struggles, and the connections and experience we have built up over our more than 80 years.

We call people to engage more actively in the most meaningful and hopeful struggle, the struggle to build a new society free from exploitation, oppression of all kinds, one that seeks to build a most profoundly democractic majority movement for fundamental change. That committment, that understanding, that potential, all require a much bigger Communist Party, a revolutionary party based on and in the working class.

People join the Party in many ways, for many reasons

We often wont know in advance what particular approach will work best with potential members. We need to cast a wide net, and find new ways to make the Party visible and accessible. We need to experiment, to engage in trial and error and success, to learn what works best at this point in time, at this political moment.

We have to change to grow. This Party Building/Recruiting Drive is an opportunity to change our style so that we can become more deeply embedded in movements, coalitions, and struggles. It is an opportunity to strengthen the involvement and initiative of our clubs.

We are in a period that requires experimentation. We need to try many different methods, and acknowledge beforehand that not all the experiments will work out. But we can learn from all of our Party building efforts.

Some of our best recruiting experiences have come when we have offered a variety of ways for people to connect to the Party. In other words, when we dont put all our eggs in the same basket. We can hold public rallies and gatherings, issue leaflets and brochures and shop papers, hold classes and discussion groups, have social events with no particular political agenda, just a chance for people to talk informally about whats on their minds. Most important is when we hold club discussions of recruiting and share our thoughts about prospective members, making our contacts the property of the whole collective. By doing several of these things at once, we can provide many ways for people to connect with us; we let them find the ways to connect that they are most comfortable with.

Many people dont even know that the Party still exists. We need to find ways of becoming more visible. Visibility can take many forms. Visibility is clubs and districts issuing Party statements and sending them to the media and to public officials. Visibility is testifying at city council hearings. Visibility is carrying a Party banner in a peace demonstration. Visibility is running a Communist candidate for office. Visibility is sponsoring a small discussion group. Visibility is issuing a shop paper or neighborhood paper in the name of your club. Visibility is talking to one or two friends about the Party. Visibility is distributing the PWW at demonstrations and picketlines, and in neighborhoods. Visibility is building a club mailing list. Visibility is whatever combination of things that are realistic and expand our circle of supporters and those who know about our work.

Even those members who cant or wont be public themselves can help the Party become more visible. They can help with mailings, in small discussion groups, in writing and layout for a club zine, neighborhood newsletter or shop paper. They can figure out one person to talk to about the Party.

We have to figure out new ways of talking about what the Party does. Too often, in the service of the correct principle of not being boastful or arrogant, we go to the opposite extremewe say nothing about our work! We want the movements we participate in to be as broad as possible, we dont want to act in such a way as to make our role the excuse for broader forces to avoid coalitions we are a part of, but we do need to make our contribution clear to those we work closely with, to those who are potential members.

Questions to ask ourselves

Some questions to help start a club discussion:

* What is the role of the Party? How can we describe that role to others?

* How has the role of the Party changed in the last five years?

* What is different about being a Communist today?

* How has the Partys relationship with the labor movement changed?

* With the Bush Administrations encouragement of racism, how does the Partys fights against racism and for affirmative action and full equality need to change?

* What can we do to make the Party more visible, more attractive, more vibrant?
What does it mean to be a Communist today?

The answer starts with the work we are engaged in, for peace, jobs, justice, democracy, healthcare, and democracy. To be a Communist means advocating for these issues in all the places we work, in unions, community organizations, political campaigns, at demonstrations, rallies and picketlines. To be a Communist means to advocate unity, building coalitions, building the fight against ultra-right control of Congress and the Presidency. To be a Communist means to fight against those wedge issues which the ruling class uses to split the working class: racism first of all, anti-communism, male supremacy and sexism, anti-youth, anti-senior, anti-immigrant, anti-gay and lesbian prejudices, and other divisive attacks on our unity.

But it is not enough to be a good trade unionist, staunch member of a civil rights organizationthe Bush Administration is organizing assaults all across the board that require an organization that fights back all across the board. The working class and its allies need an organization that fights for the needs and interests of the whole class, that clearly points out the enemy in the capitalist system, that combines the most realistic assessments of where we are at with the most hopeful and optimistic vision of where we can get to if we work together.

We offer a place where those needs of the class as a whole can be discussed, where the long-range struggle is taken into account in developing strategy, where the first concerns are for building the broadest possible unity within and between mass movements.

We offer a place where peoples commitment to the goal of socialism can be expressed, where their anti-imperialism and international solidarity can be expressed, where their hatred for racism and sexism can inform and guide all struggles.

What the Party does best:

Strategy Collectives to work and develop with Integration of many struggles Opportunities for growth and education Clear vision of who the enemy is Resourcesthe PWW, PA, other literature National networks of activists in specific areas of struggle

All these are reasons for others to join us. We arent boastful, arent arrogant, we dont think or act like we have all the answers. But these are things we do well, and new members will help us do them better.

The Party understands the necessity of socialism

To eliminate the devastating problems caused by capitalism, it is necessary to replace the whole economic system with a socialist one, with public ownership of industry and finance capital, and democratic management of the economy and society. The vast majority, a broad coalition led by the working class in alliance with the racially and nationally oppressed, women, and other sectors, will win Bill of Rights Socialism USA. Socialism in the U. S. will be shaped by our own histories and cultures, our own unique realities, and our own struggles.

The Party understands the necessity of unity

Communists believe that maximum unity is needed to win peace and oust the Bush Administration from office, as a first step to curbing the power of the multinational corporations. The ruling class is feverishly working to divide the working class and people. To have any hope of winning socialism, we must develop a broad and deep unity across all those division.

A majority of the people must be drawn into united struggle. Communists are tireless workers for the unity of our multi-racial, multinational, male-female, multi-generational working class. Understanding the need for maximum unity leads us to take initiatives that expose all forms of ruling class ideology, including racism, sexism, anti-immigrant prejudices, gay bashing, and other divisions promoted by the ruling class.

We see that racism has its source in capitalism. Capitalists use racism to increase their rate of exploitation of the working class, to boost their bottom line profits, and to drive wedges that prevent working class unity. Racism dehumanizes and disfigures all of society.

The Party understands the political moment

Matching strategy and tactics to the political moment is one of our strengths. The political moment, the key issues, the crucial battles, are always changing, developing, shifting. The strategy of ten years ago is relevant to today, but not sufficient unless we change to match todays realities, todays mass consciousness, todays challenges.

The many-sided attack on peoples movements, peoples rights, peoples opportunities, waged with increasing viciousness by the Bush Administration, requires a sharper response from our Party, from the mass movements, from all who are opposed to the doctrine of pre-emptive first-strike militarism, from all who believe in and support real democracy, from all who understand the need for workers to be organized into unions. The Bush attacks are laying the basis for a broader unitythe actions of his administration make clear that no one group by itself can go it alone, that we must build new levels of unity. We must start now to step up the fight for democracy, to prevent another stolen election in 2004. We must continually point out that the actions of Bush and his cronies are threatening the very existence of humanity.

Our understanding of the political moment comes from the nature of our organizationfrom our collective, democratic appraoch to developing our policies, from the participation of members in carrying out that policy, from our bringing together activists and leaders from many movements and organizations together to figure out the big-picture issues that can unite these forces.

This political moment is sharpening up. Therefore, the Party has to sharpen up our ideology and activity, has to popularize our understanding about the roots of economic and political crisis in the systemn of capitalism, has to raise the stakes in the political battles ahead, particularly in the 2004 election battle to wrest control of Congress and the Presidency away from the ultra-right.

What we offer to new members

In addition to the many other reasons to join already discussed, we offer the chance to participate in a collective process. Our steady, consistent collaboration while we work together to strategize changes us as people and as fighters. It shapes our ability to assess events, problems, and potentials, to develop strategic and tactical approaches that build unity and advance the cause of workers and their allies. It enables us to adjust to changing circumstances, to respond to new political opportunities, and to survive in hard times.

Those who are becoming class-conscious fighters gain a sense of their worth, of the contributions they can make to the struggles. They are strengthened by the collective input of those who share a similar vision. They can contribute more because of the ties to other struggles that they develop in and through the Party.

Some questions to start a club discussion:

* What efforts has your club made to recruit in the last two years?

* What has been most successful? Have the actions of the Bush Administration changed the response to our message? What conclusions are people drawing from this political moment?

* What have we learned about recruiting?

* Can we build the Party spontaneously?

* Are we recruiting from the spontaneous growth of the peace movement?

* Is recruiting a one-time action, or is it a process? If it is a process, what are the steps in that process, and can we skip any of them?

* Is recruiting one-on-one better, or is mass recruiting better? Or is this a false dichotomy?

We recruit in many ways. There isnt only one right way, only one path, only one method. We recruit from the Internet, casting a wide net to find those most interested in not only joining our organization in name but in working over the years together. We recruit from the struggles we are involved in, by setting a good example, by constantly working to build unity, by our principled fight against racism and sexism, and by asking the people we get to know to join. We recruit by tabling at demonstrations, rallies and events, passing out our literature. We recruit by building the circulation of the PWW. We recruit by sponsoring club events and inviting our friends and co-workers. We recruit by developing club mailing lists and talking together about how to move people closer one step at a time. And any other ways you can think of!

Who are we trying to recruit?

We dont have enough of any section of the population. Of course, we start by working to recruit workers, including industrial workers, the nationally oppressed, women, youth. We need activists in movements, organizations, unions. We need more artists, more unemployed and homeless members, and we need more small business owners.

We work to recruit people in general, but we must take special steps to also recruit specific groups of workers, and develop forms that will attract the racially and nationally oppressed. Our Party must be the best representative of all sections of the people who are in motion against the ultra-right. Special events, targeted literature, special invitations, are some of the forms we need to experiment with.

Prospective Members

Some questions to start a club discussion:

* What responses have we gotten recently when we asked people to join?

* What have our newest recruits told us were the main reasons they joined? What attracted them to the Party?

* What kinds of questions can we ask prospective members to find out how they feel about the Party, what their basic questions are about the Party, what is holding them back from joining?

* Many of our members have built up years of valuable political capital and respect through their mass workhow can we translate that into more new members?

New members join for their own reasons, not for our reasons. We have to ask them their reasons in order to know how best to ask them to join. Some want to learn more about Marxist theory. Some have read about our history and want to be part of making that history. Others have worked with Communists for years and respect our work. Others want to join because they feel that joining the Party is the most effective protest against the system. Some want to join because they sense that the struggle is more complex and hence requires a revolutionary organization with a long-range strategy. Some want to join because they see Communists who are dedicated and effective fighters in their particular organization or movement.

We have to listen to their stories about their lives and struggles, their hopes and fears, their passions and concerns. Only then are we able to explain how the Party is the place for them. Listening is the key skill for recruiting.

Questions that prospective members ask

The Who needs another meeting assertion

There have been many progressive changes in the labor movement, for example. Many radicals work as staffers, putting in longhours each week. They often say they are too busy to take one more paper to read, too busy to go to one more meeting, too busy to join one more organization. There is truth to their feelings. But there is also something missingsomething they cant get if they limit themselves to the forms that the labor movement provides. That is something that can only come from a revolutionary organization, one that bases itself on the needs of the class as a whole, one that doesnt get caught up in jurisdictional disputes or counterproductive campaigns against other unions. These activists need the Party and the kind of discussions they can only get in our Party.

The Im glad youre doing it, but its not for me response

We can ask potential members, How will you know if its right for you unless you try it? Our ability to continue to keep on keepin on depends in large part on others joining and helping us. The Party may not be for everyone, but we can only find out by working together in the process of building the Party and movements. We cant do it without more members, more supporters, more friends.

If someone isnt ready to take the step of joining, can we convince them to take a subscription to the PWW, to PA, to make a financial contribution to the Partyeven a regular monthly sustainer. We can ask them to attend our events, join our discussions. Their participation will help answer if the Party is for them or not. We are a voluntary organizationthey can always quit if it doesnt work.

Hidden behind this question is often a fear that a new member would be required to do more than they are ready or able to do. But thats one of the benefits of joining the Communist Partyweve learned over 80 years of struggle that we have to be in the struggle for the long haul, and we cant stick it out for the long haul if we burn our members out by demanding more than they can give on a sustained basis. Our goal is to keep Communists fired up without getting burned out!

We think that there is politics in all of life, but that all of life isnt politics. As a Party, we have to adjust to the changing life circumstances of our members, not set unrealistic or impossible standards that end up driving people away.

If an interested person is young, can we get them to consider joining the Young Communist League, a place for youth to find their own path to socialism?

The What would I do if I joined question

There is no simple answer to this question, because the answer varies from person to person, and from club to club. We dont have any list of tasks to memorize or one-size-fits-all prescriptions.

However, every member is expected to attend club meetings as often as possible and to find ways to circulate the PWW.

The What will you make me do if I join question

The Communist Party is a voluntary organization, and the only discipline we can enforce is a voluntary discipline. We strive to find ways that the needs and talents of each individual can be matched with the needs of the club. We see this a process of mutual negotiation and learning, not something that is imposed from above.

The I want to be a revolutionary, not a reformist conundrum

Unlike some on the ultra-left, we believe that there is a positive connection between reform and revolution, between working for reforms in the short term and working for revolution in the longer term. We cant preach people to socialism; they need to learn through the experience of their own struggles that the system is the problem. So we have to be there with them while they are going through that learning process, and we have to learn right along with them.

The Im not enough of a Marxist excuse

Marxism is about the unity of theory and practice, about working to apply our ideas to real people and real situations. It is not about reading as many volumes as possible of Marxs collected works, it is not about who can spout the most quotes from Lenin, it is about doing the work and learning from the work. Of course, we encourage people to read Marx and Lenin, but ones value as a revolutionary is not dependent upon quotes or groaning library shelves.

The Will I get into trouble fear

Anti-communism is still a real force in our society. Millions are still fearful about even signing a petition. Many react in knee-jerk ways to the word communist. Many have been confused by claims that socialism has failed, or is undemocratic. We have to work patiently to change their minds, not pretend that their fears dont exist. Education in the process of struggle provides the best learning environment. As well, the best defense is a good offensethe bigger a movement we build, the harder it will be for our class enemy to isolate or defeat us.

The Why dont all the socialists just get together question

Some on the left think that the Party is too sectarian. They sometimes base this on superficial impressions, sometimes on episodes from our history when we have been sectarian. Some pride themselves on being independent Marxists. But how can they be Marxists without engaging in collaborative efforts to apply theory to practice by building a revolutionary party?

We have found out through experience that getting all socialists together ends up in endless debate, not in a more effective socialist movement. Only applying theory by working with millions of people where they are at, where they are starting from, can we test our theories.

We work very hard to build unity of action within and among the broad peoples movements, and work with other left groups in that processa unity based on work to reach millions, not a navel-gazing exercise in futility.
Why we need each other!

Recruits need the Party to develop collectivity, connect the struggles they are part of with other struggles, organizations & movements, and to be part of a group that builds and tests strategy, tactics, and full participation in working class struggles.

The Party gains tremendously from new members. New members bring new energy and new style, new contacts, new questions, and the ability to participate in new areas of struggle. New members bring high expectations of what the Party should be and how it should function, and that provides a spur for our longer-term members. New members bring their own history, their own understanding, their own talents and limitations, their own passion, drive and commitment.

When people join, they expand their own perspectives, and expand the perspectives of the Party club they participate in. New members gain strength from being part of an organization with organic connections to many areas of struggle, and the Party gains strength from expanding its organic connection through the new member. The individual grows from new challenges, new ideas, new connections, and so does the collective of the club.

We cant promise new members that membership in the Party will always be easy or smooth, but we can promise that it will be life-affirming, filled with joyous participation in struggle, and an opportunity for personal, political, and practical growth.

Why the Party?

Because of our strategy, our experience and history, our collectivity, our commitment and dedication, our participation in and understanding of working class struggles, our fight for unity and against racism and sexism, because of our internationalism and socialist theory. And because by joining, you will help us learn, develop, and grow into the revolutionary party our class and country needs.


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