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Marxism, the Communist Party USA, its history, and the world Communist movement are complex subjects. No short answer to any of these questions can be entirely satisfactory. These FAQs are meant to provide a quick introduction to the CPUSA, its basic policies, and a Marxist viewpoint on current social issues.

What is the Communist Party?

The Communist Party USA is an organization of revolutionaries working to bring about social change in a conscious, progressive direction. We understand the connection between working for democratic reforms and improvements in living standards today, and building a movement large enough and united enough to create revolutionary change and socialism in the future.

We are a legal political party, which runs candidates, publishes a weekly newspaper and a monthly magazine. We organize contingents in most major demonstrations, support workers’ struggles for decent wages and working conditions, and participate in many other ways in the political life of our country.

We base ourselves on Marxism-Leninism, on the accumulated experience of our Party since our founding in 1919. Our view of the needs of our working class as a whole, and on our vision of Socialism USA is based on those experiences.

We are rooted in our country’s revolutionary history and our many struggles for full equality and democracy. We call for "Bill of Rights" socialism, guaranteeing full individual freedoms, except the "freedom" to exploit or oppress others.

Our Party is a consistent fighter for the unity of our multiracial, multinational, male-female, young and old working class. Our unity must cross all lines of religion, region, and origin. It must encompass immigrants, both legal and undocumented, the unemployed and homeless. We fight to unite people on welfare, workers in all industries and of all income levels, workers in every region of the country. The fight to build the broadest possible unity is our main contribution to today’s struggles.

Though still very small, we are a tenacious Party with a long, proud history. Our history is steeled in struggles for peace, civil rights, union organizing, social justice, and democracy. Our over eighty years of struggle has taught us hard lessons about how to organize for change, about what works and what doesn’t, about the essential needs for unity, for collectivity, for basing ourselves in reality, for never substituting our wishes for a sober estimate of where the working class and people of our country are at.

Our strategy is to build the broadest possible anti-monopoly coalition. And work for progressive and democratic change, organize and give workers a sense of their own power, and work with millions who will learn the necessity of more fundamental change in the process of struggle.

Our work is geared to winning the working class and all oppressed people to understand the need to replace capitalism with socialism. Our work is to replace the exploitative and undemocratic economic system of capitalism with a socialist society that places people’s needs ahead of corporate greed.

We say: People and Nature Before Profits!

The capitalist system is set up to produce profits, not goods that people need, and to serve the interests of a tiny minority of the super-rich. This monopoly capitalist ruling class predominates in all major areas of society, including government and policy-making institutions. Issues are not decided on the basis of whether or not they will help the majority of the people, but on the basis of how they will affect the bottom line of finance capital and the major corporations. This includes policy and law in regards to the family, health, children, the environment, worker's rights, immigrant rights, etc.

The Communist Party USA is in favor of socialized medicine, guaranteed retirement in the form of improved social security benefits, strengthened environmental protection, full funding of education, amnesty for immigrants, and democratization of all regulatory agencies.

We are for a massive transfer of money from the "defense" budget into programs that serve the needs of the people of our country, and for an increase in the level of income at which one is exempt from Federal income tax.

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Isn't Communism dead? Haven’t Marx’s predictions been disproved?

Communism isn’t dead. In the late 80s and early 90s, many countries that were socialist fell due to a combination of forces including capitalist economic pressure, popular unrest, mistakes and shortcomings. Since then, capitalism has been restored in most of those countries, resulting in a disastrous drop in the living standards and well being of the masses of people.

People in many of the former socialist countries are now subjected to the most vicious, gangster capitalism, with rapidly declining health and life expectancy, and rapidly increasing unemployment, poverty, infant mortality, suicide, sexism, racism, and right-wing nationalism.

Communism isn’t dead! There is still a worldwide movement of Communists, who are active in the struggles in their own countries, who apply Marxism to their conditions and according to the history of their countries, and who organize international solidarity.

For example, the South African Communist Party played a significant role in the fight to end apartheid and plays an important role now in the labor and social justice movements in South Africa. For example, the Communist Party of Nepal helped lead the struggle to transform Nepal from a monarchy to a constitutional democracy and has played a leading role in the government. For example, the Communist Parties of Vietnam and Cuba, which are leading their countries and governments through times of difficult and complex economic transition. For example, the elected Communists who run the government of the states of Kerala and West Bengal in India.

Some of the predictions by Marx and Engels didn’t work out the way they expected—for example, the first socialist revolutions didn’t take place in the most advanced industrial societies. Agrarian countries, where capitalism did not yet have a stranglehold on political power, were the first places where socialism came into existence.

However, most of their predictions have proven to be true—the ever-increasing internationalization of capital, the ever-larger merger mania consolidating economic and political power in ever fewer hands, the inability of capitalism to avoid repetitive economic crises, the ever-growing gap between rich and poor, the insatiable drive of capitalists for more profits.

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Does the CPUSA believe in "conspiracy theories"?

While politics and international events can't be explained as part of some single grand conspiracy, there are real conspiracies. The Nixon White House cover-up of Watergate, the Reagan White House cover-up of Irangate, and many more are examples of conspiracies.

The three big conspiracy stories of the Bush Administration thus far, all interlinked, are the stealing of the election, the Enron scandal, and the speed and thoroughness of Bush's turn to the offensive after 9/11 on every front, moving to cram through legislation restricting or eliminating democratic rights.

Even though Bush conspired against the U.S. people to steal the elections in 2000, the CPUSA, rather than focusing on proving the conspiracy, participated and gave leadership to the mobilization of thousands who rallied against the theft.

Our role is not to prove what goes on behind closed doors and hidden board rooms. Our role is to mobilize, educate and organize. Under capitalism there will always be conspiracies against the well-being of the people. The point is to fight against the repercussions these conspiracies, mobalize mass support for democratic change and fight for the immediate needs of the people, like healthcare, education, job security, a living wage and pensions.

The only way to stop these types of conspiracies is to organize and fight for socialism.

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What are the CPUSA views on the environment?

One of our main slogans is "People and Nature Before Profits." We are for developing policy that provides for a sustainable economy and a sustainable ecology. Where possible, we participate in environmental movements, and recognize and work on the environmental aspects of struggles on the shop floor and in unions.

We oppose drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge and we oppose the use of nuclear power until there is a safe way to dispose of waste (and if there is no safe way, don't use nuclear power at all). We fight against subjecting workers to untested new chemical compounds with unknown health consequences, currently being introduced at the rate of 3,000 or 4,000 new compounds each year. We support the use of sustainable forest practices, which also are more labor intensive, creating new jobs and job retraining for laid-off lumber workers.

We seek to build unity between the environmental movement and other important movements: the labor, civil rights, women's, youth, peace, and immigrant rights movements, to name a few.

To build a better world, we must have a world to build on. The greatest environmental threat is that of nuclear war. We are for complete disarmament and for the destruction of all nuclear weapons.

There was environmental damage in the former socialist countries. Some of that was due to their efforts at forced industrialization, which put the environmental dangers of such development low on their list of priorities. A related problem was that in adopting machinery and industrial processes from advanced capitalist countries, they unintentionally adopted the capitalist economic realities embedded in the machinery and processes. In other words, capitalist industrial development is based on not having to pay the costs for most of the waste products it generates. When socialist countries used that as a model to develop their own industry, they ended up with the same skewed industrial waste model.

They did this for several good reasons—to short cut the process of technological change, to quickly provide more goods for their citizens, to be able to compete with capitalist countries. However, unintentionally, adopting technological processes designed to function in capitalist reality, they brought in environmental problems that relied on the ability of industries to dump waste without paying the social and environmental costs. To adapt, rather than just adopt, major industrial processes will take more time.

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What has the Communist Party USA accomplished?

The Communist Party has been a consistent fighter for peace, jobs, racial and gender equality, justice, workers rights, and socialism. We fight against racism, militarization, oppression and exploitation.

The CPUSA was founded in 1919, most of its membership originally coming from the left wing of the Socialist Party. Throughout our history, we have been involved in the struggles of our class and people for extending democracy, building unions, uniting against racism and chauvinism, and fighting for peace and justice.

In the 20s, we fought against the Palmer Raids, an early example of the anti-democratic nature of anti-communism, where the government arrested and deported many radicals and Communists. Our Party organized solidarity with the fledgling Soviet Union, against the military intervention of the US and other capitalist countries. We built strike solidarity in Gastonia, North Carolina, with mine workers in West Virginia, and began efforts to unionize basic industry through the TUUL and TUEL (Trade Union Unity League and Trade Union Educational League).

In the 30s, we organized the unemployed and employed to fight for unemployment insurance, a radical idea at the time. We agitated and organized for a national retirement program, which eventually became Social Security. We fought for freedom in the Scottsboro Case, and for Angelo Herndon and many others, imprisoned for fighting for relief from the effects of the Depression.

We participated in and led many efforts to organize basic industry, in auto, steel, rubber, longshore, and many other industries. In California, Party members initiated efforts to unionize Japanese and Filipino immigrant farmworkers, which employers fought using the most vicious tactics and judicial repression. We organized support for the defense of the Spanish Republic, many members joining the Abraham Lincoln Brigade to fight the fascists in Spain.

In the 40s, the Party fought fascism, with about 15,000 members volunteering for the armed forces to serve during World War II. Following the war, we participated in the largest strike wave this country has seen, before or since.

The capitalist countries, led by the US, were afraid of the rising wave of change that swept the world. They were afraid of the national liberation struggles, of colonies demanding freedom from the old colonial oppressors. And as a response the Cold War against socialism, progressive movements, and unions was started. This took the form of McCarthyism, loyalty oaths, expelling Communists from unions, and Congressional investigating committees that violated the rights of citizens to hold radical opinions and act on those opinions. The Party fought back, supporting the Progressive Party in the 1948 elections.

In the 50s, the Party continued to engage in a legal and mass fight against repression. The fight for democracy was carried on primarily, sometimes exclusively by the Party, when liberals abandoned the struggle to prove they weren’t "soft on communism." We helped circulate the Stockholm Peace Appeal, which garnered the signatures of hundreds of thousands of Americans. We opposed the Korean War. And we fought to maintain our organization in the face of FBI surveillance, Congressional investigation, with many members losing jobs or careers, and fought against the deportation of radicals. We participated in the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement.

In the 60s, we helped begin the movement against the War in Vietnam, which we opposed from the very start. Members volunteered for Mississippi Summer, a project that brought Northern volunteers, mainly students, south to help with voter registration.

We initiated or participated in many union rank-and-file committees and movements, working to democratize and radicalize unions and union members. In 1968, for the first time in several decades, we ran candidates for President and Vice-President.

In the 70s, we led the movement to Free Angela Davis, organized to fight the effects of double-digit inflation on workers and their families. We continued to fight against the Vietnam War, and supported welfare rights organizing and other efforts to broaden the base of progressive movements. We continued to run candidates for national and local offices, and fought to be a fully legal political party.

In the 80s, we organized opposition to Reaganomics, to Reagan and Bush’s right-wing military adventurism in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama, Grenada, Lebanon, and elsewhere. We ran candidates for office, and helped invigorate the fresh winds that began blowing in the labor movement. And we worked with the student and progressive movements against apartheid in South Africa. During this same period the YOUNG COMMUNIST LEAGUE (YCL), a broad-based Marxists-Leninist youth organization, was re-founded.

In the 90s, we joined many others in opposition to the Gulf War and NATO bombing in the former Yugoslavia. We continued to work with other progressives and center forces to accelerate positive changes in the labor movement in organizations such as Jobs with Justice, and organized support for public works jobs bills.

In the present day, we oppose terrorism, military adventures and the right wing agenda being pushed by Bush, which can only compound the tragedy of the recent terrorist destruction.

This very quick brief review of our history summarizes some of our many accomplishments, and doesn’t attempt to deal with the mistakes and difficulties of that history. There is now the beginnings of serious scholarship into our history, which can deal in more critical detail with the complexity, richness, and vibrancy with that history.

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What are some worthwhile books on the history of the CPUSA?

Though we don’t agree with all the conclusions of the authors of the following works, we can recommend history books such as:
The CP and the Auto Workers Union,by Roger Keeran, paperback edition issued by International Publishers, originally published in hard cover by Indiana University Press, 1980
One Union in Wood, William Tattum and Jerry Lembcke, International Publishers, 1984
The Cry Was Unity, by Mark Solomon, University Press of Mississippi, 1998
The Cultural Front, by Michael Demming
My Song is a Weapon, Robbie Lieberman
Communists in Harlem, by Mark Naison
Class Struggle in Hollywood 1930-1950, by Gerald Horne, University of Texas Press, 2001
Black and Red, by Gerald Horne
Jury Woman, by Mary Timothy, Glide Publications/Emty Press, 1974—by the foreperson of the Angela Davis jury, a fascinating account from inside the jury box of the legal and mass defense of Angela Davis.
And many others.

There are many fine biographies and autobiographies of Party leaders and members, including:
Ganbatte, autobiography of Karl Yoneda, Asian American Studies Center, University of California, 1983, Japanese American union organizer, longshoreman, survivor of the U. S. Government incarceration of Japanese Americans in concentration camps.
The Narrative of Hosea Hudson, by Nell Irvin Painter, edited transcriptions of interviews with Hosea Hudson, Harvard University Press, 1979.
Black Worker in the Deep South, by Hosea Hudson, autobiography of African American union activist in the South from the 1930s to the 70s, International Publishers, 1972.
Working Class Hero, by Arthur Zipzer, International Publishers. A biography of William Z. Foster, leader of the 1919 Steel Strike, long-time leader of the CPUSA. See also Foster’s book, Pages from a Worker’s Life.
Dangerous Scot, by John Williamson, International Publishers, 1969. Communist leader who was deported to Scotland after being declared "persona non grata" by the U. S. Government.
Fiddle and Fight, by Russell Brodine, the story of a musician’s fight for unions and decent working conditions for classical musicians, International Publishers, 2001.
Communist Councilman From Harlem, Benjamin J. Davis, elected to the NY City Board of Alderman, International Publishers, 1969.
The Man Who Cried Genocide, autobiography of William L. Patterson, African American lawyer active in the defense of Sacco and Vanzetti, who later led the Civil Right Congress.
We Are Many, by Ella Reeve Bloor, also known as "Mother" Bloor, International Publishers, 1940
Rebel Girl, by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, International Publishers.
Pete, by Simon Gerson, about Pete Cacchione, elected along with Ben Davis to the NY City Board of Alderman, International Publishers, 1976.
A Puerto Rican in New York, by Jesus Colon, Mainstream Publishers, 1961. Sketches from the life of a Puerto Rican Communist.
Hollywood Red, by Lester Cole, Ramparts Press, 1981. One of the Hollywood Ten tells his story, from rooming with Cary Grant before he was Cary Grant, to rooming in the Federal Penitentiary in Danbury for refusing to cooperate with the so-called House Un-American Activities Committee.
And many more.

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Isn't it unpatriotic to be a revolutionary?

Our government and its institutions, born out of revolutionary struggle, often hypocritically condemn any and all revolutionary activity. Those who want to maintain the existing capitalist system try to identify capitalism and democracy in the popular mind. They also try to identify revolutionaries with violence, terrorism, and undemocratic ideas.

Capitalism is very undemocratic and unpatriotic. It gives people no say in the economic decisions made by corporations, which can affect the lives and livelihoods of hundreds or thousands of workers and kill whole communities. It ignores borders whenever there is money to be made. The almost overwhelming force of money in politics is the opposite of free speech.

Similarly, the ideas promulgated about revolutionaries are at best a distortion, at worst outright, intentional lies. Not everyone who believes these distortions is an enemy, including the ideologues of the system—many are sincere people misled by the barrage of propaganda we are all subjected to.

Revolution is of necessity a most democratic act. It can't hope to succeed in the long run unless it happens with the support of a majority of the working class, which is the overwhelming majority of any society.

Revolutionaries are interested in making the fundamental transformations they seek happen in the most peaceful way possible. Our Party believes that it is possible to make fundamental transformations using the electoral process, the Constitution, and especially the Bill of Rights. Whether or not such a process would be peaceful depends on the capitalists, the fascists, and the politicians who feel they would lose.

The ruling class tries to use every available means at its disposal to prevent the spread of socialist ideas and organization—using the political system, the media, the legal system, the courts, the educational system—any and every lever of power and control.

They pass laws that are not only hypocritical, they are also unconstitutional—such as the Smith Act, used in the late 40s and early 50s to prosecute leaders of the CPUSA for the crime of thinking, studying, and arguing for revolutionary ideas. Several of our leaders spent from four to eight years in jail. This law, and several other laws or major provisions of laws, were eventually declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court after an heroic struggle by our Party for maintaining democratic rights.

As Fredrick Douglass said, power concedes nothing without a struggle. We see it as our job to use all available methods and means to fight for peace, democracy, economic and social justice, and other progressive causes.

We strive to build sufficient unity to start a peaceful transformation of our country into one with a more equitable, more just socialist economic system. We think this is not just fully compatible with democracy, it will extend our formal democratic rights to include real economic democracy.

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Who are some of the people who have been members of the CPUSA?

W. E. B. DuBois, the most prominent African American scholar, founder of the NAACP and long-time editor of its paper, The Crisis.
Gus Hall, one of the founders of the Steelworkers Union and long-time General Secretary and then Chair of the Party.
Claudia Jones, from the West Indies, head of work among women, deported during the McCarthy period.
John Reed, journalist and author of Ten Days That Shook The World. The movie Reds is about his life.
William Z. Foster, organizer of the 1919 Steel Strike.
Benjamin Davis and Pete Caccionne, both elected to the NY Board of Aldermen in the 40s.
Henry Winston, Chair of the Party from mid-60s to early 80s.
William Patterson, civil rights lawyer and head of the Civil Rights Congress.
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (Joe Hill’s "Rebel Girl") was an IWW and free speech activist. She was also a founder and leader of the ACLU. She was kicked out in 1940. Flynn was also chair of the Party during the early 60s.
Paul Robeson, athlete, scholar, actor, singer, activist, and much more.
Lucy Parsons, widow of Albert Parsons (Haymarket martyr).
Theodore Dreiser, the author of An American Tragedy, Sister Carrie, and other classics of American literature.
Dashiell Hammett, the author of Maltese Falcon, and other classic mysteries.
Sen Katayama, Japanese Communist who helped found the CPUSA

The list of Communists who have made significant contributions to our country and its politics and culture is much too long to complete here. If the list were expanded to include non-Party leftists, such as Harry Bridges, ILWU founder and leader who worked closely with Communists, the full impact of radicals on U. S. culture and society would be quite impressive.
This list is just a start..

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Doesn't Communism stifle creativity?

The best answer to this is to list some of the major cultural figures of the last century who were Communists: Sean O’Casey, Pablo Neruda, Nazim Hikmet, Paul Robeson, Nicholas Guillen, Mikail Sholokov, David Siqueros, Picasso, Bertolt Brecht, Tina Modotti, and many more.

There have been a number of important writers and other cultural figures who were members of the CPUSA: W. E. B. DuBois, Hugo Gellert, Robert Minor, Meridel LeSuer, Thomas McGrath, Theodore Dreiser, Dashiell Hammett, Michael Gold, Walter Lowenfells, and others.

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What is the Party's structure?

The basic unit of the Party’s organization is the club. A club can range in size from a few members up to several dozen. We strive to base each club in a specific neighborhood, shop, or industry. Clubs usually meet twice a month, though some meet less frequently depending on distances and specific circumstances. Clubs collect dues, discuss member’s activities, elect their leadership, and conduct educational work for members and prospective members.

Every four years, we hold a national convention, which sets basic policy for our Party and elects our national leadership, including the National Committee, which sets policy in between conventions. The National Committee is a political body composed of about 140 members from around the country, leaders of the Party and mass movements. The National Committee elects our national officers.

Each state organization also holds a convention every four years in preparation for the national convention, and elects the state leadership.

Democratic centralism is the basis of our organizational system, balancing the democratic participation and expression of entire membership with the need for centralized decision-making and coordinated action.

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Are there any trade unions affiliated with the CPUSA?

There are a number of important unions with a long tradition of left wing and Communist leadership. But, no there is not any mechanism for affiliation, unlike in some European countries, and unions in this country are intentionally not affiliated to any political parties.

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What is Socialism?

Socialism, as we see it, is not the final answer to social development—and communism isn't either! Societies, like all processes in the world, undergo continual internal struggle, incremental change, and periodic revolutionary transformation.

Socialism is a transitional stage because there isn't a quick straight line between a society based on exploitation and one based on equality, plenty, and human needs as the ultimate determining factor rather than profits. There are many "hidden" aspects of the economy and other social organization that will have to be changed, a process that will be protracted.

Socialism, in our view, is a precursor to communism. Socialism is a stage of development where society transforms itself into an economic system based on production for use rather than production for profit, where social need plays a much larger role in political and economic decisions, where the "commanding heights of the economy" are socially owned and run on behalf of society, and where people can begin to transform themselves.

In socialist society, the remains of the capitalist class will still exist. Before a communist society can be constructed, the remains of society based on exploitation, racial and social divisions, and where there are still inequalities in pay, distribution of goods, and other social divisions will need to be overcome.

While there have been and are countries where Communist Parties play the leading role in government, there has never yet been a communist society, because such a society will rely on further developments in technology, production, education, and culture.

Why is socialism a transitional stage? Why can't we just stay with endless socialism? Because society never stands still. Because once society and human nature go through the transformative process of socialism, it will develop even more egalitarian social and economic relations.

Socialism still requires a state that has an oppressive apparatus to prevent the former ruling classes internally, and the capitalist classes in other countries, from returning to power and wiping out any and all gains. And under socialism productive capacity will not yet have developed to a level that will provide for all the basic needs of all the people. We will still be "sharing scarcity."

We can't predict how long this transitional stage will take, and it will take different lengths of time in different countries. Obviously, 70 years of socialist development in the Soviet Union, taking place under constant attack from capitalists and fascists, wrestling with huge problems of underdevelopment, wasn't enough to make socialism irreversible. This was due to those constant attacks, to mistakes made by Communists and others, to trying to build an advanced society in an under-developed country, to the many millions of workers and Communists lost during WWII.

So, contrary to some left thinkers who see a quick transition once capitalism is done away with, we see socialism not as a quick fix on the way to communism, but as a long stage of social development.

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What is the difference between Communism and Socialism?

All Communists are for socialism, seeing it as a transition stage to communism, a higher stage of economic, political, and social development. All socialists aren’t for communism; some see Communists as too radical.

Socialism is social ownership of the main means of production (factories, transportation) and the commanding heights of an economy (banks and other financial institutions) and runs them in the interests of the working people, using part of the value that workers produce to build up the social institutions and benefits for the whole people.

Communism, as we see it, is a more advanced stage that comes after socialism. Communism, a stage of development never reached anywhere yet, reduces the state apparatus to minimal administrative functions, since people and society will have advanced past the need for coercive functions like armies, and will directly and indirectly provide people with the full benefits of the labor they engage in.

We see communism as a later stage of development. A stage when the production of the necessities of life has become plentiful, when there will no longer be shortages of food, housing, jobs, health care and education.

We see communism as a stage when governments can "wither away" to mere administrative agencies rather than maintain coercive control on behalf of exploiting classes through armies, police forces, court systems, tax agencies.

Socialism, which we are advocates of, is a transitional stage between capitalism and communism, a stage where a change in production relations, social relations, and individual outlooks become solidified.

When people have gone through a prolonged period of living in a society not based on scarcity, exploitation, and oppression, and when production for use rather than profit is a well-established economic system, and when the productive forces have advanced to be able to provide for the needs of all people, then society will be able to advance to communism. Communists are advocates of both socialism and communism.

In a socialist country, there is still a struggle that goes on between the ruling working class and the dispossessed capitalist class inside the country, and between the working class in power in one country and the capitalist class in power in other countries. The stage of socialism, as we have learned from experience, is not irreversible, and there is not a short, quick march to communism.

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Is an American socialist revolution really feasible?

That depends on what you mean by feasible! We do think it is feasible if you take a long-term view that understands, in a Marxist way, that the struggle for reforms today (quantitative change) is dialectically connected to bringing about a revolution (qualitative change).

If your question means do we think a small party can cause a revolution by itself, the answer is certainly no. We think of revolutions as profoundly democratic events, which if they are to succeed, must involve the support of a majority of the working class. A revolution that is a version of a coup won't succeed in the long term, because to fundamentally transform society requires the active involvement and support of a majority. So feasible, yes, quick, no.

The main obstacles to a socialist country in the US lie not in the formal system of representative government or the division of government into branches with checks and balances. The main obstacles come from the economic system, which is undemocratic, and uses the power of money and economic and financial weight to dominate and distort the political system, the media, cultural and academic spheres, and other major aspects of life.

We think that a socialist government could be elected under our current political structure, and that if the capitalist class can be restrained sufficiently, that transformation could be peaceful. That is what we want, what we work for. But in most revolutions, the source of the violence is the actions of the established order, which resorts to civil war or violent repression to prevent a peaceful revolution.

A socialist transformation in the US would take the money out of politics, would put democracy into the economic system, would stop the international imperialist adventures that capitalist governments claim to oppose but start constantly.

A socialist-led government would seek to expand democracy, public power, and social programs, and would work to curtail or end all military and repressive and oppressive policies. For example, the US government currently is one of the largest arms suppliers in the world, selling armaments by the billions, and demanding that international treaties allow this type of immoral, reprehensible trade.

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Can I join the Communist Party if I’m religious? Isn’t Marxism against religion?

The Communist Party is a political movement for all who oppose capitalism, oppression and exploitation. We welcome religious people into our ranks. We have priests, ministers and religious activists from many churches as members. We see no contradiction in atheists and religious people joining together in a Party that works for social justice, peace and socialism.

Marxism is not against religion, just against those who use religion and religious organizations for reactionary purposes; we are against the right wing in the religious community as we are against the right wing elsewhere in society.

The CPUSA stands for freedom of religion and welcomes members from all religions, and supports the progressives in every religion who fight for the poor, for workers, for a humane and just society.

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Aren’t socialist countries anti-religion?

The issue of religious freedom under socialism is complex. It is not as simple as is often presented in the popular media. All socialist countries have substantial religious freedom. Some of those countries also have taken actions against those who they feel use religion in an attempt to politically attack socialism.

In China, Vietnam and Cuba, there are many religious institutions, many millions who worship freely, many churches that are growing. There is a worthwhile book entitled Fidel on Religion, consisting of an extended interview and discussion with Fidel Castro by a Brazilian journalist.

One example of a counter-revolutionary use of religion was during the period in Vietnam between the signing of the Geneva Accords (1954) and the elections, which were supposed to be held in 1956. During this period, the CIA ran a "disinformation" campaign in North Vietnam, attempting to convince the Catholic minority that the Communists were out to kill them all, encouraging them to flee for South Vietnam. Many believed this propaganda and fled. The Catholic minority in South Vietnam, boosted by those who had fled south, became the political basis for the corrupt government of Diem in South Vietnam.

This was a conscious propaganda campaign, run by the infamous CIA operative Edward Lansdale. He later boasted about his successes, and the campaign has been written about in much of the literature on the history of Vietnam, as well as the books on history of the CIA.

The North Vietnamese did not engage in any campaign of repression against the Catholics. They had no intention of doing so—this was a clever invention of Lansdale's fertile imagination, an effort to deprive North Vietnam of the more highly educated and trained Catholics and to build a base of support in the south for the minority government run by Catholics, who instituted repressive measures against the religion of the majority, namely Buddhism.

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How can I join the CPUSA? What would I do if I joined? How often do you meet? What are the requirements of membership?

You can join by clicking on the icon at the top right of this web page, or by contacting any of the state organizations listed on our CONTACT THE PARTY page. You can also fill out the application that appears as an ad in every issue of the People’s Weekly World. Please join—we need more fighters against the depredations that the US capitalist class subjects our working class and people to, and to which US imperialism subjects most peoples of the world.

What you would do if you joined depends on many factors—where you live, what organizations or movements you are already active in, how much time and energy you have. When you join, if there is a Party club anywhere near, you would join that collective and together with the other members work out the most effective use of your time, energy and talents for the struggle.

The range of possible contributions you could make is large. We need people to write for the PWW, reporting on demonstrations and movements in your area. We need to have contingents at the many demonstrations, rallies and marches that take place in most cities and towns. We need to send representatives to coalitions and conferences. We need to encourage solidarity efforts with local and national union struggles, like those that won freedom for the Charleston Five.

Nobody can do everything, but working together in a collective way, we can help create significant social unity and change, which can lead to revolution and socialism.

Every member of the Communist Party is urged to attend their club meetings (which range from twice a month to less frequently where there are great distances involved), pay dues (a minimal 50 cents to $1 a month), read and circulate our press (the PEOPLE'S WEEKLY WORLD & Political Affairs), raise money to support the PWW and the work of the Party, and participate to the best of their ability in other Party activities.

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Is there internal democracy in the CPUSA?

The CPUSA, in its constitution and practice, strives to be as democratic as possible and as accountable to the membership as feasible, without abandoning the centralist aspects of our structure.

The best guarantees of continuing democracy and membership control in the Party come from increasing our membership, encouraging membership input and activity on every level, and electing leadership bodies which are accountable and open to input.

Greater democracy requires greater centralism and a deeper use of Marxism. Democratic centralism balances two essential aspects required of a revolutionary organization. The exact balance depends on how we work together and what the Party rules state, but is also affected by the social and political situation.

Communist Parties in countries with more repressive or fascist governments have to focus more on centralism and security than we have had to over the last 30 years.

Our Party is striving to re-balance its structure and work to correct some previous over-emphasis on centralism, and to encourage and welcome a much enhanced democratic participation and initiative from our whole membership.

Our 27th Convention in 2001 was an example of democratic centralism in operation. The convention included speeches, reports, and proposals from our national leadership as well as resolutions from clubs and districts and motions and amendments from the floor. Both delegates and guests participated in workshops on over 35 subject areas, with some guests on workshop panels. Any limits on the participation of delegates and guests came from objective time pressures.

Read any of the recent reports from Sam Webb or Elena Mora, and you will see the emphasis they, as representatives of our leadership, place on membership initiative and participation.

Our focus has been and must be on the needs of the working class as a whole, the problems facing our class in daily life, at work, in the political/electoral arenas, in union and strike struggles. This too keeps our "eyes on the prize." Our continual efforts to engage in and build struggles and to build coalitions with others are examples of our view that we must be "outward" focused, and not mire ourselves in inner-party battles.

Why should I join the Communist Party?

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There are a number of worthwhile benefits you can gain from joining our Party, including being part of a collective which supports its members, and builds on the individual strengths of each to create a stronger collective.

While none of us can possibly be involved in all the struggles that need to be advanced, we can belong to an organization that has people in all the important struggles, where we each do our part and the collective shares in the work of individuals. We can concentrate our specific issues, reinforcing our individual work, and build on our participation in many movements to encourage stronger coalitions between movements, organizations, and coalitions.

We can each benefit from the accumulated experience of a revolutionary party that is in the struggle for the long haul. We have to have a realistic approach to struggles, so that we don’t burn out, don’t let ourselves get overwhelmed—and being a member of the Party can help with all those issues.

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Should I be worried about joining the CPUSA?

While we feel that McCarthyite prejudices and restrictions against the Party and members in general have greatly declined, they haven't disappeared. We try our best to work with individuals to find a way of relating that fits their specific circumstances. We do not try and pressure people to be more public about their membership than they are ready to be.

While the AFL-CIO has removed the anti-communist clause from its constitution, there remain problems for many individuals in joining or being public about their membership. We encourage members to be as open as possible, but people have to decide for themselves how much is possible.

Here are some suggestions if you feel unable to be an open Communist:
1. Subscribe to our paper, thePEOPLE'S WEEKLY WORLD, if you don't already.
2. Subscribe to Political Affairs, our monthly, theoretical journal.
3. Let us put you in contact with the closest Party organization, so that you have some contact with a real person and can have political discussions with them.CONTACT THE PARTY
4. Attend club meetings as a guest, even for a protracted period of time, so that you function as a member without actually joining.
5. Join the Party, but limit to close trusted friends who you tell about your membership.
6. Of course, we feel the best option is for supporters to join and to function as openly as possible.JOIN THE PARTY. While there are still anti-communist laws on the books, they have not been enforced in a while, and most provisions have been declared unconstitutional. However, Bush and Ashcroft are moving in a significantly more repressive direction. We think the best defense against this is building a strong mass movement against the policies of the ultra-right, and building a stronger Communist Party. Still, each person has to decide for him or herself what level of activity fits the specific circumstances, and we don’t presume to judge that for each individual from afar.

Even without joining, you can become more involved in supporting the Party and its work, help build mass struggles against the ultra-right, and be an advocate for working class alternatives.

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Why is there so much anti-communism in the U.S.? What’s the story behind McCarthyism?

Anti-communism is very prevalent. It is a part of our culture. The root of it is: people who own the means of production and the politicians like capitalism. They would have to give up a lot under socialism. So they created a myth that the CPUSA is violent and undemocratic. On the contrary, we believe in a peaceful revolution, with true democracy - political, economic, and social.

The political climate associated with Joseph McCarthy didn't start or end with him. His evil genius was, for a few years in the early 50s, to ride the wave of anti-communist hysteria for his own political purposes as its most virulent practitioner.

"McCarthyism" was one variant of right-wing efforts to crush left, labor, and progressive movements by scapegoating the Communist Party. Such efforts include the "Palmer Raids" in 1919-1920, the Martin Dies' led House Un-American Activities Committee starting in the 30s, the "Truman Doctrine" in foreign policy which used covert operations and undercover funding to thwart the democratic electoral efforts of communist and socialist parties in Europe following WWII, and Truman's imposition of a "loyalty oath" on public employees in the late 40s.

McCarthy saw his chance to become a nationwide figure by becoming a spokesman for the most rabid expression of the anti-communist hysteria. He waved fictitious lists, made outrageous accusations, and ruined lives, careers and movements in the process. When the mainstream political powers realized he was taking things too far for them, they turned and condemned what they were responsible for starting.

McCarthyism, both from McCarthy himself and from many, many others, was not really directed at a fictitious "Communist threat" from the Communist Party. It was directed at the labor and progressive movements, aimed at depriving those movements of their most capable, radical leaders, aimed at creating fear so that millions of people who wanted progressive change in the US would be afraid to sign petitions, afraid to join unions and other organizations, afraid to speak up for their rights, needs and views, for fear of being ostracized.

McCarthyism is a horrible stain on the democratic rights of our whole people. Its effects continue to be felt, though with nowhere near the virulence of the 50s and early 60s. The Communist Party, at times almost alone, fought through the courts and in the streets, for maintaining democratic and constitutional rights not only for our Party, but also for all people.

Many of the laws and prosecutions and repressions of the McCarthy period have been repudiated, by the Supreme Court, by lower courts, by the industries that practiced the blacklist against progressive artists, and by historians studying the period.

Again, the lingering effects were not just from the actions of one man, reprehensible though he was. Many people and politicians, from the right-wing John Birch Society through Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and others, all the way to the supposedly "Liberal" Americans for Democratic Action, collaborated to stunt the growth of progressive movements and to isolate them from the majority of workers.

Actions such as the prosecutions of national and state leaders of the Communist Party under the Smith Act, the passage of the Taft-Hartley anti-union legislation, the McCarran Act, and others, all deserve as much condemnation as McCarthy himself. McCarthy embodied the lying, hypocrisy, jingoism, anti-intellectualism, and demagogy that others shared with him, like Richard Nixon.

The effects on our Party were severe. They included 4 to 8-year prison terms for some of our leaders. They were charged with the crime of thinking revolutionary thoughts. More importantly, the effects on the labor, peace, and progressive movements hindered the building of a broad, anti-right-wing, pro-people politics that could have brought about real benefits for working and poor people, similar to the benefits that came in the 30s.

Our whole society is still paying the price of those years of repression, reaction, and pro-business policies. And we still have ahead of us the continuing struggle for a country and world based on putting people and nature before profits, and creating peaceful solutions to the problems that face us in this new century.

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Was the CPUSA Ever Banned by the U.S. Government?

The answer is both yes and no. The CP was never banned as a political party in name by the US government. However, the CP has had its leaders sent to prison for long terms for teaching Marxism-Leninism, has been declared illegal in more than a few states, and has been the target of numerous forms of official and unofficial government repression.

Shortly after its founding in 1919, the CP was the target of the so-called "Palmer Raids" which arrested and deported many foreign-born radicals. J. Edgar Hoover got his start as a Justice Department official helping to direct these raids, which resulted in the deportation of several thousand foreign-born radicals, including members of the CP.

In the 30s, Communists were the targets of many forms of repression, both as Communists and as key organizers of industrial unions. In Detroit, Chicago, San Francisco, and many other cities, Communists were killed by police forces trying to prevent union organization and public demonstrations.

During this period, the House of Representatives set up a committee named after its first chairman, Martin Dies, which "investigated" radical activity. This committee later became the House Un-American Activities Committee, responsible for many of the anti-communist witch-hunts of the late 40s and 50s.

In 1948, the top leadership of the CP was arrested under the Smith Act. It was charged with trying to overthrow the US government by force and violence. Later, many other national and state Party leaders were arrested and charged.

In none of these cases was any criminal activity ever an issue, none of them were every charged with engaging in any activity of force or violence; only with teaching Marxism-Leninism. Some of the national leaders spent 4 years in prison, several who went underground spent 8 years in prison, when they turned themselves in after the others were finally released.

Eventually, after long legal and political struggles, the Supreme Court invalidated key sections of the Smith Act as unconstitutional. After long struggles for democratic rights, waged in many cases by the Party and a few supporters, portions of the McCarren Act were also declared unconstitutional.

Other struggles were over various so-called "loyalty oaths" for jobs, for union membership in some unions, and for running for office in some states. Eventually most of these were dropped, invalidated by courts, or simply ignored.

Nonetheless, in some states, for example Washington State, there remain unenforced laws on the books, which make it illegal to be a member of the CP, subject to heavy fines and imprisonment.

In the 1950s, a government program was set up by the FBI named COINTELPRO. Its assignment was to conduct spying on the legal activities of Communists, and to use subterfuge and lying to split the CP.

In the late 60s, this program was also used against the Black Panther Party and many radical student groups. In virtually every instance, the only illegal activity was on the part of the US government and its agencies. The only "crimes" that radicals were seriously accused of were signing petitions, organizing demonstrations, teaching radical thought, and similar legal, democratic acts.

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What happened in the Soviet Union and other East European socialist countries?

Major factors in the serious setbacks to socialism include: the constant attacks by capitalist countries, which went from economic harassment through political subversion up to military intervention and the threat of military occupation; the stresses put on socialist economies by the arms race and military threats and attacks; the fortress mentality which developed in those countries as a result of the constant attacks, leading to inadequate development of socialist democracy; insufficient adoption of the advances of the scientific-technological revolution; economic models which didn’t give sufficient weight to constantly revolutionizing the means of production; the historical circumstances of socialism starting in what were primarily peasant societies; bureaucratization in the state apparatus of those countries; a serious blurring of important lines between the Party and the state and between accomplishing objectives by administrative means and by political means; and a formal approach to Marxist ideological and educational work rather than a truly dynamic, dialectical approach.

For some recommended reading see books listed in "What are the CPUSA's views on the USSR?"

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What are the CPUSA’s views on the USSR?

The subject of the USSR is a complex one. There was certainly an insufficiently developed democracy, but to dismiss over 70 years of their history developing socialism as completely undemocratic is a gross oversimplification. They practiced forms of economic democracy and worker involvement unknown in this country. They offered citizens many essential benefits that the drive to capitalism has destroyed.

When the "solution" is worse than the problem, it is not a solution. Capitalism has made life for the vast majority in the former Soviet Union and other former socialist countries much worse. All indicators of social health are deteriorating, such as the sharp rise in infant mortality, the decrease in longevity rates, levels of malnutrition and starvation, decreasing health care for most of the population, inadequate and overwhelmed social security and welfare programs. The problems they faced would have had a better chance of being solved by more socialism, not less!

I recommend six books to help deepen your knowledge of the accomplishments and shortcomings of the Soviet Union:

Heroic Struggle, Bitter Defeat by Bhaman Azad from International Publishers, 2000,

Blackshirts and Reds by Michael Parenti from City Light Publishers.

These are both valuable contributions to the discussion of what happened in the Soviet Union, why, and how that connects to the history of Soviet policies.

About issues of human rights and socialist development in the Soviet Union, see Human Rights in the Soviet Union by Albert Szymanski, Zed Books, 1984.

An earlier book of his, Is the Red Flag Still Flying, included an afterward that is a (very incomplete) start at an historical materialist analysis of Stalin’s role. (Symanski was an economist and a Maoist who set out to prove the Maoist thesis of "capitalist restoration" in the Soviet Union, but on examining the statistics and realities, came to the conclusion that the Maoists were wrong, that the Soviet Union was still primarily run in the interests of the working class. He used statistics and facts as reported by right-wing academicians, arguing that facts as reported by anti-communists could be used to prove progressive points with greater believability by anti-communist readers.)

Soviet Women ( Ramparts Press, 1975) and Soviet But Not Russian (Ramparts Press, 1985) by William Mandel and The Siberians by Farley Mowat are useful responses to the barrage of anti-communism directed at the Soviet Union and other socialist countries. (Note that for writing this particular book, Farley Mowat was barred from entering the United States in the 1980s! He wrote a short funny book about his experiences. The U. S. State Department finally backed down, at which time Mowat refused to enter! Other world-famous authors have been refused entry into the U.S. as "undesirable aliens," including Nobel Literature Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez.)

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How can you defend socialism when socialist countries are continually violating human rights? Aren’t socialist countries anti-democratic?

The human rights records of socialist countries have been uneven, and certainly have included violations of human rights, which we see as unacceptable. But the view that all socialist countries are completely undemocratic is a lie, another superficial PR job to keep people from looking critically at our own country's violations of human rights.

Most socialist countries did (and do) accomplish many democratic things—like guaranteeing jobs, health care, education, and voting rights, like encouraging mass participation in decision-making, in both the electoral and economic arenas, like guaranteeing freedom of religion as long as it isn't used as a political force against socialism.

For an alternative view of the myth that US actions overseas support democracy, see Allende's Chile by Edward Boorstein, International Publishers, 1977. Another valuable (though also no longer up-to-date) look at how the US functions in the world, is The Sword and the Dollar by Michael Parenti, St. Martin’s Press, 1989. (Parenti also has written an excellent alternative political science textbook called Democracy for the Few, St. Martin’s Press, 1983, issued in many editions, which looks deeper at the myths of U.S. democracy.)

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Does the CPUSA advocate the violent overthrow of the government? Don’t all communists advocate violence?

The actual sentence referring to "violent revolution" in the Communist Manifesto says: "In depicting the most general phases of the development of the proletariat, we traced the more or less veiled civil war, raging within existing society, up to the point where that war breaks out into open revolution, and where the violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie lays the foundation for the sway of the proletariat." This is more a description than a prescription.

We are for peace, for peaceful solutions to both international and intra-national problems, and for a peaceful transition to socialism, wherever possible. This has become ever more essential in the nuclear age.

While some governments run by people calling themselves Communists have been responsible for horrible acts of violence and repression, notably the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia, much if not most of the violence often blamed on revolutionary governments and parties is actually the responsibility of the conservative, reactionary, capitalist governments and parties.

Many revolutions have been relatively peaceful, including the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Vietnamese Revolution of 1945. The bloodshed comes when those formerly in power initiate a civil war, or foreign armies invade, trying to reestablish capitalist, feudal, or colonial power.

This was true in Russia. There was not only a civil war; there was an invasion, by 14 countries including the US, trying to topple the revolutionary government.

This was true in Vietnam, when the former colonial power invaded Indochina in a vain attempt to re-establish their control of the people, resources, economics, and politics of the region.

Again, the responsibility for most of the violence rests on a deposed ruling class, in this case the French government (supported by the United States). After the Vietnamese defeated the French at Dien Bien Phu, there was a negotiated Geneva settlement, ending the military conflict, partitioning the country, and setting democratic elections for 1956.

The United States was responsible for abrogating that agreement, an international treaty with the supposed force of law. Eisenhower, US President at the time, later explained that if the US had allowed elections to be held in 1956, Ho Chi Minh would have won 80% of the vote. So the US prevented democracy, supported the corrupt South Vietnamese government, and eventually invaded.

Bourgeois apologists ignore the violence inherent in the system of capitalism, the often hidden violence of on-the-job injury and death, of great social ills directly traceable to the shortcomings of the system—such as the tragically high infant mortality rate in many of our inner cities.

Maintaining the capitalist system means maintaining an anti-people, anti-humanist criteria. Under capitalism profit is the main or sole deciding force over the lives, health, and deaths of millions of workers.

It is beyond the scope of an answer such as this to respond fully to all questions of violence, and we have been guilty of ignoring crimes of governments led by Communists, such as the crimes of Stalin and Beria.

But these are not simple questions. It is not an either-or proposition, either Communists are guilty or the capitalists are guilty. While we think that an objective, detailed analysis of most situations over the last century would conclude that capitalist and reactionary governments and parties are responsible for most of the violence, it is true that Communists have engaged in armed struggle, are not pacifists, and that some who called themselves Communists have engaged in repressive tactics.

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Is the CP affiliated with Parties in other countries?

The CPUSA is an independent organization. We apply Marxism to our country, our history and our traditions. We are not "affiliated to," in the sense of being subordinate to, any organization outside the US, or inside the U.S.

We do have fraternal, friendly ties of solidarity with many Communist and Workers Parties around the world. We participate in international conferences of Communists, such as one held in Greece in 1999, where over 60 parties presented and exchanged views.

When invited, we send representatives to the conventions that other parties hold, and invite others to attend our conventions. For example, at our most recent convention, held in Milwaukee in July of 2001, we had fraternal delegates from 20 Communist and Workers Parties. We strive to build deeper unity and where possible coordinated action of the world movement, to fight the ever-increasingly interlinked worldwide capitalist system.

Just go to our International links page to get a sense of the breadth and vibrancy of theWORLD COMMUNIST MOVEMNET.

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Why doesn’t everyone on the left (or all socialists), just put aside their differences and get together?

There are many organizations in the US that view themselves as socialist or communist, or based in some way on Marxism. Superficially, it might seem like we would have a stronger movement if they all joined together. However, these organizations have more differences than are obvious from a cursory look at their programs. In fact, our experience is that trying to force a unity among many small groups leads to endless debate, not to strengthening our ability to reach and organize our class.

Marxism bases itself, in part, on the proposition that there needs to be unity between theory and practice, and that practice (in other words, real life) is primary. The test of differences over Marxist theory doesn’t come from how many quotes any group can marshal, but from working with real people, in real struggles. If a strategy is wrong, real life will prove it, not endless debate. All too often, many left groupings distinguish themselves by working against real unity.

We stand ready to work with any group or organization that works in practical ways to build the unity we see as essential, not just a formal or forced left unity, but a real unity rooted in practical work among masses of people. Real left unity will be built as we work to build a broad left/center unity for democracy, peace, equality, justice, and workers rights.

People often ask, "why don't all the socialists just get together? Wouldn't they be stronger?" We don't think so. Such unity has to be based on common views, common experiences, and common strategies.

As Marxists, we believe that the test of strategy and tactics lies in their application in practice (what is often called the unity of theory and practice). There are many parties that describe themselves as socialist, and they offer a wide variety of strategies and tactics. How can anyone determine who is right? Only by practice. Practice is the test, not debate, not a superficial unity which is not deep enough to create a real common program.

We are for developing closer ties with other left organizations, but not for the purpose often proposed, of having more debate between the different "trends." Common experiences in action will help us all sort out which strategies most closely match the needs of the struggle. We see developing more left unity as a political process, not a meeting or agreement or debate between small parties. The common goal of left unity is to reach millions of workers and strengthen their knowledge of their own power, their own organization, and their own interests.

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Is the CPUSA different from the Labor Party?

Yes. The Labor Party is one of a number of important efforts to build alternative political and electoral formations, including the Green Party, the New Party, the Working Families Party, the Vermont Progressive Party, and some other organizations in particular locales.

The Labor Party, like each of these, has a combination of strengths and weaknesses, and like all of them is struggling to make a place in the political system dominated by big money and the two major parties.

The CP is not affiliated with any of these formations, though we do have members who participate in all of them. We support these efforts to provide the voters of our country with real choice and with alternative politics. We also support progressive Democrats as well as the efforts of the AFL-CIO and affiliated unions to build their own political apparatus independent of the Democratic Party, and to run and elect thousands of labor union members to local and state offices. We also, wherever possible, run our own candidates.

While we work to help build the base for a major third party, we also feel that the route to success is not through making Democrats, however limited or regressive their policies, the main target of independent candidates, as Ralph Nader did in the 2000 elections.

By directing most of his criticism at Al Gore rather than at the even more reactionary George W. Bush, and claiming that there were no real differences between the Republicans and Democrats, Nader added confusion, rather than clarity.

Building a mass base for the third party movement requires winning those millions who still have illusions about the Democratic Party, especially on the national level, not attacking these potential allies in the battles against the ultra-right.

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Does the CPUSA run candidates for elected office? What is the history of the CPUSA in presidential elections?

The CPUSA does run candidates for elected office, both as communists and as independent candidates for local office, sometimes on slates of progressives, sometimes for non-partisan offices. However, we don't yet run candidates in many places. This is due to several factors: our small size, the financial and resource demands of campaigns and the high costs of advertising, and also to the numerous restrictions that still exist in many places to so-called "third party" candidates.

Check our web site www.cpusa.org for reports on electoral struggles, such as the recent report by Joelle Fishman. Check out our journal, Political Affairs, also accessible through our web site, for articles such as the January 2002 articles on the Working Families party in New York and on the Vermont Progressive Party.

Below is a short history of some CPUSA members who have ran for President:

Year Pres. VP # of votes Total # of votes (in millions)

1924, William Z. Foster Ben Gitlow, 36,386, 29.1
1928, William Z. Foster Ben Gitlow, 48,770, 36.8
1932, William Z. Foster James W. Ford, 10,2,991, 39.8
1936, Earl Browder James W. Ford, 80,159 45.6
1940, Earl Browder James W. Ford, 46,251, 49.8
1968, Charlene Mitchell Michael Zagarell, 438 (on the ballot in only two states)
1972, Gus Hall Jarvis Tyner, 25,222, 77.6
1976, Gus Hall Jarvis Tyner, 58,692, 81.6
1980, Gus Hall Angela Davis, 43,896, 86.5
1984, Gus Hall Angela Davis, 36,225, 92.7


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Do you run candidates for local offices? Why haven't you run candidates for national office for years?

We do run candidates for local offices. Several Communists have not only run but been elected. However, we want to run many more candidates for local offices.

Our numbers are still small, and there are several obstacles--the money required to mount a serious electoral campaign, the amount of work required (which can drain our energies away from other important Party activities and from participation in coalitions), and there are still many difficulties in getting minor parties on the ballot.

All these reasons are even more true for running national candidates. Each state has different ballot access laws, which over the decades have gotten much more restrictive in most states. In the 1970s, we made several concerted efforts to get on the ballot in all states, but were only able to succeed in just over half the states. Since then, many states have made ballot access more restrictive, by exponentially increasing the number of signatures required to get on the ballot, by requiring that signatures be collected in every single distict in a state, and other similar rules that severely restrict ballot access. This affects our Party, but also many other smaller parties. We have joined in several lawsuits attempting to overturn some of these restrictions.

The costs of running a national campaign have also grown expontentially, as have the limits on gaining access to media coverage.

As a result of these and other factors, we have chosen to focus our limited forces elsewhere, by supporting efforts in the labor movement to build independent electoral campaign structures and to elect more workers to office, by campaigning in our own name in an effort to clarify the key issues for workers, and by working to build coalitions against the ultra-right.

Our expectation is that we will in the future again run national candidates, but we want to be in a position to run campaigns that have the potential to have a significant impact on the electoral process. This requires more members, requires running more candidates for local office to gain experience and to build our mass base, and requires that we are in a position to raise sufficient funds for a national candidacy.

In the meantime, we support many efforts to build alternative political formations (see FAQs about "Third Parties" such as the Green Party, the Labor Party, the Working Families Party, etc.). We work to build the political strength of the labor movement. We work to support candidates within the two-party system who offer real alternatives to the ultra-right, such as Paul Wellstone did. And we are working to build our Party in size, experience, and strength.

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If I have more questions, how can I get them answered?

There are a number of ways you can get questions answered. You can use theASK THE PARTY link on our web site. You canJOIN THE PARTY or participate in our ONLINE DISCUSSION GROUP and post your question. You can contact a Party organization in your state or city by e-mail (see our CONTACTsection for e-mail addresses) and ask a question or find out about local events you can attend. Events usually have a question and answer period whenever time permits.

Another way, if you agree with our basic program, is to join the Party, participate in our activities, start a Marxist self-study program (which your club can help you plan), and learn by doing!

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How does the CPUSA feel about syndicalism?

The syndicalist movement, originally associated with French radicalism in the 1890s, was a precursor of and also competitor with the founding of the IWW in the early part of the last century.

Syndicalism, unlike the IWW, did not seek "One Big Union," but did see the union struggle as the only place that offered the possibility of victory to the workers. William Z. Foster, later a leading member of our Party, was earlier a syndicalist, traveling around the country in 1912 by riding the rails, promoting what he saw then as a more "pure" syndicalism as an alternative to the IWW. Later he came to reject syndicalism.

Syndicalism downplays and even denies the role of politics, political struggle, and all struggles that don't take place at the point of production. Like the IWW, syndicalism as a movement is a hold-over from earlier periods of struggle, and has long ago ceased to be a real factor on the left, though a few of its ideas are still widespread in sections of the labor movement.

In Volume 4 of History of the Labor Movement in the United States, (International Pub, page 20) Phillip Foner quotes Foster's later analysis of syndicalism: "In its basic aspects, syndicalism, or more properly anarcho-syndicalism, may be defined very briefly as that tendency in the labor movement to confine the revolutionary class struggle of the workers [to] the economic field, to practically ignore the state, and to reduce the whole fight of the working class to simply a question of trade union action. Its fighting organization is the trade union; its basic method of class warfare is the strike, with the general strike as the revolutionary weapon; and its revolutionary goal is the setting up of a trade union 'state' to conduct industry and all other social activities."

Foner goes on to say that syndicalism represents a mish-mash of ideas from trade unionism, Marxism, and anarchism.

Communists do not support the syndicalist movement, and do see its single-minded focus on trade union activity as a hindrance to an all-sided class struggle approach, which includes trade union work along with political, electoral, and social struggles. Lenin's pamphlet "State and Revolution" is in part a response to left ideas that ignore the role of the state before, during and after a revolution.

We do work with trade unionists who hold syndicalist views when we can agree on a common course of action—in other words, we can work with them in a union or coalition, as we work with others with whom we disagree sharply when they are part of a broader coalition.

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What are some of the most popular misconceptions and myths in America about communism?

There are many popular misconceptions about the Party, communism and socialism. One is that everything in the USSR and China and Cuba and other socialist countries is totalitarian, repressive, and undemocratic. These misconceptions at best are a superficial analysis and at worst an intentional falsehood.

Another is that to be a Communist is somehow unpatriotic, when the reverse is true: real patriotism requires a radical outlook to make our country one that really serves its people. The right-wing claim that communist ideas are "foreign" ideas is a xenophobic, chauvinistic, and ignorant view.

Some say Communist Parties are hidden conspiracies, hoping to overthrow the government through "force and violence." We see revolutions as profoundly democratic events, which if they are to be successful must involve a majority of the working class.

Most of the things our Party has been accused of doing are, when looked at closely, legal, constitutional, and progressive. While a counter-revolution can pull off a military coup, a revolution which hopes not only to change the power equations in government but also works to fundamentally transform society cannot do so without the support and involvement of millions.

The prime cause of these misconceptions is the aggressive propaganda campaigns of the rich and powerful, who see a strong Communist Party and a strong labor movement as threats to capitalist control.

Even before our Party was founded in 1919, there have been claims that radical ideas are not "American" somehow. Anti-communism became one of the central organizing forces of all right-wing movements, along with racism and sexism. The House un-American Activities Committee, the FBI, the major newspapers, right-wing think tanks, even many so-called "liberal" think tanks, all have been cranking out distorted propaganda about socialism, communism, and the Communist Party for decades upon decades, until anti-communism seems the accepted obvious truth to many.

These propaganda efforts are attempts by the ruling class to protect its power. When socialists and communists make mistakes, the propagandists seize on these. When socialists and communists help people, this is hidden, twisted, and lied about. When others engage in radical action or thought, they are accused of being communists. As a Brazilian cleric said, "When I feed the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.

"Capitalism retains its power in large part by encouraging and fomenting divisions in the working class and in the progressive movements. Racism, sexism, anti-communism, regional chauvinism, hatred of immigrants and foreigners, an anti-historical view of events, false patriotism, and religious hatred are all used to put obstacles in the way of workers and poor people uniting and flexing the power that masses of people organized together can wield."

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So how does your communism help the working class?

In the long term, rebuilding a society based on putting people and nature before profits, based on production for human need rather than petty greed, based on what's best for the vast majority rather than the miniscule minority of the super-rich, will benefit the working class.

Under capitalism the working class is subjected to all the exploitation and oppression that those who control the system feel they can get away with.
In the shorter term, organizing those who are in favor of the longer-term goal of socialism to work on current issues facing workers, directly benefits workers and their families, poor people, and people oppressed due to skin color, nationality, religion, gender, language, etc. We do this by building unity, by keeping the long-term goals in mind, by fighting against anything that divides workers. As a result, workers win more than they would otherwise.

In a sense, our goal is to make workers aware of their own power, their own strength, since fundamental change can only happen if the majority support it. We see revolutions as fundamentally democratic events, expressions of the will of the majority.

We work for reforms now and revolution in the future. Only by workers fighting in a unified fashion for their immediate needs will they become aware of their own power, their own ability to determine what direction society goes in.

After 1929, in the midst of the Great Depression, America still retained a capitalist system. Although certain socialist policies such as welfare were implemented, no sweeping changes were made in an economic system that could have easily been perceived at the time as a total failure.

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Why do you think radical changes advocated by the Socialist Party and the CPUSA failed to come about during this time period?

First, some of the radical changes advocated by our Party and other left-wingers did come about during the 30s, and resulted in some lasting improvements for workers. Social Security, unemployment insurance, organizing of mass production workers into unions, increased welfare programs, some government funding for the arts, and many other changes are all things that the CPUSA fought, and still fights for. All of which are under attack by right-wing politicians.

These changes were reforms to the system, not revolutionary changes. We see a connection between the fight for reforms and the longer-term revolutionary struggle. Some on the left pose the question as if these were mutually exclusive alternatives. Our Party feels that the only way to get to a successful revolution is to win workers and their allies to struggles for reform, leading them to a consciousness of their own power, and to an awareness of the limits placed on real solutions by the capitalist system.

A revolution can't be the act of a small conspiracy or a "coup," the way right-wing counter-revolutions can be. So our Party fought for reforms to bring immediate improvements to workers. Many of those struggles sooner or later resulted in the adoption of programs to meet the needs of people, even though only in limited ways.

The economic and social crises of the Depression led many to conclude that a revolutionary transformation of the system was necessary. But never a majority. Many concluded that change was needed and found in the New Deal that some change was possible. But many more were overwhelmed by the crises and expended all their energies on survival, never turning to politics, struggle, or organization.

There is no short cut to revolution, no sure-fire prescription. And while an economic crisis leads more people to conclude that changing the economic system is necessary, that doesn't automatically lead to creating a revolutionary situation.

We have never been among those who thought that "the worse the better," that the worse a crisis, the quicker people conclude that revolution is necessary. If that was so, then there would have been revolutions from within in the fascist countries, and fascist governments in Spain and Portugal wouldn't have lasted for 40 years or so.

If Communists and Socialists had found better ways earlier to cooperate, if a less-accomplished politician than Roosevelt had been the President, if racism and anti-communism hadn't been so prevalent preventing for the development of greater unity, if the system hadn't successfully made important concessions, if more people had felt that they had exhausted all the political openings in the system, if right-wing movements such as those led by Father Coughlin, Huey Long, and Charles Lindberg had won less support among masses, if . . . if . . . if . . .

For a more in-depth discussion of this issue related to a specific industry, see The Communist Party and the Auto Workers Union by Roger Keeran, issued in paperback by International Publishers.

For an in-depth discussion of the complexity and sometimes less-than-obvious difficulties of revolutionary struggle and social transformation and developing revolutionary strategy, see Allende's Chile by Edward Boorstein, also from International Publishers.

There is no short cut on the path to revolution. We can say in hindsight that more people should have perceived capitalism as a total failure, that it should have been obvious to everyone, but we can't change the reality that millions of people have to come to that conclusion on their own. A Party can teach, can participate, can lead, can organize, but it can't make people ready for something they are not ready for.

Like a strike, a revolution is a scary, risky undertaking, one that workers don't, can't, and shouldn't take lightly. They have the power to transform society, but only if a majority of workers and their allies are conscious of that power. They have the power to transform society. Desperation isn't enough. Crisis isn't enough. Even social collapse isn't enough.

A militant, organized, mature working class, led by an experienced revolutionary party, with well-developed alliances with other major progressive sectors of society, and with a capitalist class which is split, which is not unified around a fascist program of drowning the revolutionary movement in blood, these can lead to a successful revolution.

Lenin was quite eloquent about the complexities of a revolutionary situation; see State and Revolution.

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Communist Party Immediate Program for the Crisis

It is shameful and unacceptable that any child should live in poverty, and that anyone should go hungry, homeless, without medicine, or without a living wage in our nation of such great wealth.

Meet the Needs of Working, Unemployed and Farm Families
- Raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour.
-Unemployment insurance for all workers.
- Moratorium on farm foreclosures
- Labor law reform to remove barriers to workers who want to join a union.
- No privatization of Social Security. Increase benefits.
- Universal prescription drug coverage administered by Medicare. Universal health care system.
- Restore social safety net. Welfare reform that includes job training, supports and living wages.
- Full funding for equal, quality, bi-lingual public education. No vouchers.

Make Corporate Giants Pay
- Repeal tax cuts to the rich and corporations.
- Close corporate tax loopholes.
- Restitution to workers' pensions.
- Strong regulation of financial industry.
- Regulation and public ownership of utilities
- Prosecute corporate polluters. Public works program to clean our air, water and land
- Aid to cities and states. Federally funded infrastructure repair and social service programs

Foreign Policy for Peace and Justice
- No to war with Iraq - End military interventions
- Repeal Fast Track and NAFTA, stop Free Trade Area of the Americas(FTAA). No secrecy.
- Save Salt II Agreements, reject Star Wars and Nuclear Posture Review
-Abolish nuclear weapons
- End military interventions.
- Cut military budget and fund human needs.

Defend Democracy and Civil Rights
- End racial profiling.
- Repeal the death penalty.
- Enforce civil rights laws and affirmative action.
- Repeal USA Patriot Act.
- Legalization and protection of immigrant>rights.
- Public financing of elections. Overall election law reform including Instant Runoff Voting.
- Youth and student bill of rights. Guarantee youth's right to earn,learn and live.

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