Convention Discussion: Experiences with the newer technology

BY: Jim Lane| February 16, 2010


This article is part of the discussion leading up to the Communist Party USA’s 29th National Convention May 21-23, 2010. takes no responsibility for the opinions expressed in this article or other articles in the pre-convention discussion. All contributions must meet the guidelines for discussion. To read other contributions to this discussion, visit the site of the Pre-Convention Discussion period.

All contributions to the discussion should be sent to for selection not to the individual venues.For more information on the convention or the pre-convention discussion period, you can email

“New Opportunities to Grow the Communist Party” is an excellent and energizing document. As we throw ourselves into carrying out its ambitious suggestions, we are likely to encounter challenges that we have not previously experienced.

The question raised in the middle of the document has a typo that might actually impart more truth that correct spelling would have. It says, “If what we say is true and we are in the mist of a new wave of political activism not seen in 40 years, of a new interest in socialist ideas…”

Probably, the author meant to say “midst” instead of “mist.” My experience, though, indicates that we really are “in a mist” technologically. People and groups are getting active to a higher degree and manifesting their activism in new ways that we have not experienced, no matter how seasoned and prepared we may think we are.

The first casualty of communications technology is geography

Our party is organized in geographic sections that, for many of today’s purposes, are almost meaningless. A dozen volunteers in one state may wait for months for a response, while a District Organizer in another state is eagerly responding to every opportunity.

Another casualty of communications technology is democratic centralism

How can our Party speak with one voice when every member can broadcast to the world with a few keystrokes? The most innocent e-mail between comrades can be repeated thousands of times! The most carefully worded comments can set off angry flame wars! Individual members can exchange political views, for better or worse, with communists and anti-communists around the world. Discussions within our highest leadership body have been published on the world wide web along with anti-leadership diatribes!

Another casualty of communications technology, in some cases, is responsible membership

It has always been possible for defective people, anti-communists, and police agents to join the Communist Party. The internet can make it easier. New members have generally been responsible people who agree with the party, but internet applications can come from anybody. Whether or not they are accepted into membership might depend on whom they ask!

Internet problems are not insurmountable

Weighed against the tremendous advantages that new technology offers, the attendant problems are almost insignificant. It is entirely possible that our Party membership may increase geometrically in one or two days. It is entirely possible that our carefully described stages of revolutionary activity could be jumped over like lightning! It is entirely possible that millions of dollars and thousands of volunteers could come to us in a twinkling. But to position ourselves for those possibilities will take some thinking and some experimentation.

Technology overcomes vast spaces and diverse people

Here in Texas, the 2nd largest state, we have been experimenting with technology for some years. We were among the first to put up a District Web Page, among the first to download information from national, among the first to file news articles through modems, the first to try programmed learning on the internet, and the first to carry out webinars for educationals and district meetings. I recently took on the assignment of maintaining contact with “internet applicants.”

We began putting tiny educational modules on the internet some years ago. They can be viewed at Generally, they consist of a short essay on a single point and a handful of easy questions in multiple-choice form. The answer one clicks on results in a commentary and, sometimes, a link to other information. If the choice was correct, of course, they are waved forward to the next question.

We also use links to the school as “footnotes” in our posted news articles. If, for example, a news article refers to “imperialism,” the reader may click on the word to find a definition or a short explanation of Lenin’s great book by that name. The Marxist glossary may be thought of as the center of the school. I also began holding regular webinars on educational topics.

After I took on the new assignment with internet contacts, I started holding weekly webinars for them. Currently, we are discussing the CPUSA convention documents. In November, I received about 45 names of people who had applied to the Party since the previous March. About 10-12 new names have come in each month. There are 23 people who filled out the enrollment form for the school, and I have e-mail for another 40 or so people who live within CPUSA districts, mostly Texans. Out of a total of 125 people on my list, only about 30 have joined me in a webinar, but some of them have done several.

Here are a few suggestions

As someone who has already made hundreds of errors in internet contact work, I feel justified in offering my suggestions. The first and most important is that the work should be centralized. Our party center should be dealing with all internet contacts, whether in districts or not in districts, and stay in contact with them until they are members of physical clubs. Geography is a distraction, nothing more.

We should accept the idea that a “path to full membership” is not necessarily the only priority for this work, and not necessarily first among goals. Internet members make terrific worker correspondents, and they can write a check as well as anybody. Internet members can study Marxism, follow political developments, and influence people in their own areas as well as physical club members can. Internet members can and probably will travel to faraway Party activities from time to time. Internet members can recruit other members, both physically and, even more, on the internet.

Internet members should have regular meetings, perhaps by webinar, with other people as physically close to them as possible. Eventually, the psychological and political advantages of a physical club will probably be possible everywhere. In the meantime, webinar attendance can be an excellent guide for planning physical tours of Party leaders.

More on-line educational opportunities should be developed. I cannot say if the interactive model on the Texas web page is worth following, but it should be considered, and, perhaps, developed much further.

The Party should continue the fine work we are doing in developing our interactive web efforts. More telephone conferences, more webinars, more streamed presentations should be developed. Party leaders and experts should make themselves available to lead educational and other web presentations. All of us need to try to learn whatever is necessary.

Our Party’s outstanding web page should make it clear that our elected leadership, and only our elected leadership, is the voice of the Party. There is no way to stop the pretenders, but it should be made completely clear that we are the genuine Communists. We need clear guidelines on communications. Every genuine Party information source should be hosted and overseen by our entire Party.

The World Wide Web will someday be an integral part of a socialist world. Even now, it is a vital road toward it.


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