Convention Discussion: — Breakthroughs & challenges

BY: People’s World Editorial Board| April 18, 2014

Submitted by the Editorial Board of the People’s World

It’s been four years since our last convention discussion on How do we see ourselves now with four years under our belt? What has changed? What remains the same? What adjustments need to be made in our outlook and methods of work? The convention discussion provides a great opportunity to examine these issues.

Four years ago,  we had just completed a difficult and somewhat contested transition to online daily production. We said then that our mission of being a voice for the labor and peoples movement would be greatly aided by the re-establishment of our daily working-class press made possible by the growth of online publishing.

Has that really been the case? To what extent have we managed to unite our day-to-day organizing efforts with building our influence in the movements or have we? And if not what have been the obstacles to successfully doing so?

When we started out on this journey, our circulation averaged around 2500 readers a day, we had a negligible presence on social networks, and our content was largely written, posted and circulated by a somewhat bigger paid staff. Then our email list numbered about 3000 subscribers and it was the primary means of circulating articles.

We dreamed then of a rapid increase in circulation, of integrating our content with ongoing political campaigns, of building on the Obama victory and helping lead the fightback against tea party extremism. We hoped that the Party leadership and membership would rally around our new websites and utilize them in their day-to-day struggles in the communities, campuses and shop floors where we work.

How then have our real achievements stacked up against these dreams and hopes?


Today the situation is quite different. Our readership has remained steady. In the last two years, our footprint on Facebook has gone from 3,000 likes to some 56,000 plus. Our email list has doubled and now sports over 6,000 subscribers. Our followers on Twitter also number 6,000. And now over 700 members and friends have pledged to share our articles on social networks.

Our presence on Facebook merits particular mention. Not only has it allowed us to potentially reach tens of thousands of readers, it is also a location where readers are interacting and sharing ideas, issues, and struggles in an unprecedented way. Comments are regularly made on articles, articles themselves are regularly liked and shared often by several dozens and sometimes several hundred readers. How to capitalize on this involvement, deepen its content, turn it into email subscribers and fund-drive contributors is a major challenge.

Relationship building is the key. A few dozen have joined the sharing campaign from these efforts. At few have became regular contributing writers. Others have contributed to the fund-drive.

The achievement of over 56,000 likes is a big accomplishment. It is not however a subscription panacea. I used the phrase “potentially reach tens of thousands” of readers deliberately.  A Facebook “like” gives us the opportunity to appear in a person’s news feed. Whether they see an article, click on it, read it and share depends on  a number of factors including whether they are online and whether they like what they see. Those issues are partially fortuitous and partially dependent on us.

That our Facebook pages have opened new doors with new readers however, is beyond doubt as only a cursory glace at our shares, likes and comments clearly show.

Building on this is the key to our success as breakthroughs with new contacts and members already attest.

Indeed, instead of relying exclusively on the writings of paid staff, new members and friends are increasingly adding to our content. In Texas a writing collective contributes regularly; Florida, New York, Illinois, Ohio, West Virginia, Ct, Missouri, and northern California regularly send in stories from volunteer stringers.

And of course the Party’s national staff, after our decision to ask for weekly articles has made a major contribution to guaranteeing our content with both writing, video and photos.’s prestige as source of labor and peoples news and views has grown during this period. It is now more widely accepted and read in labor circles. Thanks to the efforts of or labor editor and the CPUSA’s labor department our articles are consciously posted on labor social network pages. All of our district organizers have also worked hard to build relationships with labor leaders, central labor bodies, and local unions. As a result, annual Peoplesworld banquets have acquired a new quality.

In this regard, particular mention has to be made of the “normalization” of the PW’s status. For example at the  AFL-CIO Executive Council and other functions it is now treated equally with other publications. Note also has to be taken of our labor editor, John Wojcik’s election as vice president of International Labor Communications Association (ILCA).


Needless to say there have been challenges and significant ones at that. With the loss of a full-time PA editor, our writing staff is smaller. Our technical staff has also shrunk. Over the last year, despite our best efforts, there has been a drop in weekly contributions from our national writers and with it participation in weekly editorial meetings.

Without a  functioning editor, Mundo too has not lived up to its potential and subsists on a diet of article translations.

We have lost two regular writers and will  lose at least two more with pending transitions.

Our circulation while remaining steady, has not grown as we had hoped. When our writing has been connected to important struggles and issues, like the Wisconsin Uprising and the IdlenoMore initiatives our readership has surged and in the case of Wisconsin done so for an extended period.  However, a qualitative breakthrough has remained elusive and our readership remains lodged in and around the party and its immediate periphery.

Is this because our content while unique and largely focused on labor and the broader peoples movements is not diverse enough? Or is it because we have not managed to successfully navigate the contours of social networks? Or is it because we still shy away from advertising as a means of bringing our message to broader audiences? Whatever the reason, with the exception of some important  breakthroughs we are still a small star in the huge universe of online media.  

Party not won

Part of the reason in our view is that the Party itself has not been wholly won to the very idea of the web, social media and social networks.

Could it be that broadly speaking two groups have emerged in our ranks, one of which is online and connected, the other  that is not? That the former are mainly new members and the more internet conscious among us and  that the latter is the Party we all know and love organized in clubs and districts?

If so, how can we go about addressing these issues, paying attention to both; winning the districts and clubs to paying more attention to use of our online press and working to deepen our relationship with new members?

Some efforts have already been undertaken. In Chicago, a membership meeting was devoted to such training was held with Libero. He has also traveled to NY, the Bay Area and Baltimore for membership social media orientation. NC meetings and national conferences have also been occasions for introducing the party to our goals and objectives.

At the initiative of the New York City leadership, Wojcik traveled to NY for a training session with new writers.

In the last two years our editors have twice developed fund campaigns among our most conscious readers reaching out personally to them by email and text message  both times yielding some 60 pledges and contributions.

The new members committee has also actively reached out to new members encouraging them to share articles on social networks. The additional 400 plus pledges to share over the last year stands as testament to this work.

That said we also hold the view that our leadership and in particular our staff both paid and volunteer must become much more engaged in circulating our press and interacting on social networks. Everyone should relate to this work in some way, have a particular responsibility and spend a portion of their work day on it. Social networking must become integrated into our daily routines.

What does this mean concretely? In our discussion of this report co-editor Terrie Albano remembered a comment by Wally Kauffman that the PW could be used to open the door of every union hall in the country. Could that not be said of our online press and include peoples movements as well?

It’s clear that doors are opening. In Hartford for example, our articles are regularly published. by the Central Labor  Council website and Facebook page. The postal workers, on at least two occasions have posted our stories on their websites. The AFL-CIO blog before its new incarnation regularly carried our stories.

Here again, relationship building is key. We have to ask ourselves are we using our articles and videos to build on and deepen the contacts we make?

Clearly to be more effective requires reaching out to a broader pool of potential readers and supporters and finding more creative ways to do so. With an ever growing online universe the question has to be asked are we holding steady or are we treading water? Clearly neither are acceptable. What then will it take to make a breakthrough?

When thinking about this  it’s important to keep in mind that compared to others, we have some unique advantages, the first of which is a dedicated, seasoned and capable editors and staff. Coupled with that is good publishing platform and a strong and growing presence on Facebook and others networks.  No other organization our size comes even close. Third we have a network of several hundred members and friends who have pledged to help circulate and share our articles. That too is unique and something we must continue to build on.

So what are the next steps?

First, we must continue to fight to involve our membership in circulating and supporting our press. This includes, writing, sharing, and fund-raising. In particular we must give much more attention to building our email lists and using them more effectively. While we have doubled our lists in the last the last 4 years, 6000 names is no where near living up to the potential. We have no strategy to build our lists – that must change.

Second, more attention has to be given to balancing our work in social networks and paying more attention  to Twitter, Google+, Tumblr and Pintrist, while not losing momentum on Facebook. Collectives of sharers must be formed in these networks as well while avoiding spamming. We must continue to build on our recent achievements on Google air and streaming our monthly conversations.

Thirdly, we need to develop a strategy for broadening our readership and devoting more resources to advertising online.

Fourthly we must incorporate texting into our messaging arsenal. For many, email has become old hat.

Fifthly; we have to work on joint efforts with other left forces; a coalition approach to promotion and events where we all share the benefits.  

Finally, like the Party, the editors and staff of too are going through a transition.  The transition from print to online while clearly a step forward depleted our staff both editorial and technical, a balance that has yet to restored.

Capable new staff with great talent and potential have been added however, a seasoned writing crew is still a long way off, to say nothing of having the technical personnel to support their efforts. And while a new and in some ways unprecedented pool of writers is emerging it too will take time to mature and develop.

A smooth transition will require that as some transition to other assignments, they be promptly replaced.

Volunteers are clearly part of the solution. However, our experience has shown that even the best circumstances, they are no substitute for full-time staff.

The mission of is too important for this issue to handled in any other way. We are confident that putting our heads together and drawing on the successes of the past four years we will find a way forward to making the breakthroughs we can and must make.


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


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