What does the Communist Party stand for?

The Communist Party stands for the interests of the American working class and the American people. It stands for our interests in both the present and the future. Solidarity with workers of other countries is also part of our work. We work in coalition with the labor movement, the peace movement, the student movement, organizations fighting for equality and social justice, the environmental movement, immigrants rights groups and the health care for all campaign.

But to win a better life for working families, we believe that we must go further. We believe that the American people can replace capitalism with a system that puts people before profit – socialism.

We are rooted in our country’s revolutionary history and its struggles for democracy. We call for “Bill of Rights” socialism, guaranteeing full individual freedoms.

Until we win enough support to change the system, communists call for radical reforms under capitalism. We call for nationalization of the banks, railroads, and industries like steel and auto. Everyone who wants to work should be guaranteed a job or get unemployment payments until she/he can find a job. We say put the unemployed to work at union wages on massive public works programs to rebuild our cities, provide affordable housing for the homeless, build mass transit, and clean up the environment!

Our outlook is based on the social science of Marxism-Leninism. We study history, politics and economics in order to change the world.

Is the Communist Party legal?

Yes. The right to belong to the Communist Party is protected by the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

But vigilance to protect these fundamental democratic rights of the American people has been needed throughout our nation’s history as corporate interests have repeatedly attempted to outlaw the Communist Party (along with other progressive groups such as trade unions, civil rights groups, etc.)

From the Palmer raids of the 1920s through the McCarthy witchhunts of the 40s and 50s, to today’s rabid radio talk show hosts, right wing politicians and corporate interests have never stopped trying to intimidate workers by making it seem that being a communist or favoring socialism and workers rights is illegal. Nevertheless, in recent years many states, counties, unions and other organizations continue to replace outdated anti-Communist clauses with more democratic and inclusive policies.

What is Marxism? How can I learn more?

Marxism is the system of ideas and practice developed by the great German scholar and revolutionary Karl Marx and his collaborator Friedrich Engels. Working in the late 1800s, a period of revolutionary social and scientific change, Marx and Engels brought together classical German philosophy, English political economy and French socialism to produce an integrated view of society. Marxism has served as a guide for working class and national liberation movements ever since.

Marxist ideas have been elaborated and modernized by other great revolutionaries such as Vladimir Lenin, Ho Chi Minh and Fidel Castro. The validity of Marxism has been repeatedly demonstrated by its role in guiding successful social struggles and revolutions in every part of the world. Marxism is not a rigid dogma, but relies on the scientific method to analyze and change society, so it is constantly developing and adapting as society itself changes.

Some of the best introductions to Marxism are the writings of Marx, Engels and Lenin themselves. The Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels, should be on everyone’s must-read list. Lenin’s encyclopedia article “Karl Marx,” written in 1914, is an excellent brief description of Marx’s life and work. An even shorter article is “The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism.” Marx’s excellent histories, such as The Civil War in France, combine brilliant historical analysis with a deep sympathy for people’s struggles. Engels’ Socialism: Utopian and Scientific is a very readable explanation of Marxist socialist theory.

How does the Communist Party work?

Members of the Communist Party belong to clubs in their communities or workplaces. Some clubs are citywide or regional. In the club, members work together to support and initiate struggles for workers rights, peace, equality and justice. We give special emphasis to coalition building and working to strengthen our unions.

Most clubs meet monthly. Meetings include study and discussion of both current developments and long term strategy and tactics. Some members participate in discussions and activities through on-line clubs. In states where there are clusters of clubs they work cooperatively as a district.

Every four years, the party holds a national convention. Delegates elected from the clubs assess the current political situation, set policy and elect a national committee.

The Young Communist League, an independent organization, works alongside the Party at the local and national level.

The national headquarters of the party is located in New York City.

What has the Communist Party accomplished?

Founded in 1919, the Communist Party has helped win important changes in our country. Communists helped organize the great industrial unions including steel, meatpacking and auto. Communists were pioneers in the 1930s in the fight for Social Security, unemployment compensation, the 8-hour day and the 40-hour week. They took a lead in the fight against lynching and to save the Scottsboro Nine. Communists were among those who developed militant direct action tactics – such as the sit-down strikes that helped win unionization of the auto industry. At the height of the Great Depression communist neighborhood clubs organized mass unemployed councils that put back the furniture of evicted neighbors. In rural areas, communists organized to block bank auction of foreclosed farms.

Fighting Jim Crow, communists helped lay the groundwork for the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. During the Spanish Civil War and in World War II, Communists volunteered to fight fascism. Many died in battle. In the Korean War and early days of the war in Vietnam, Communists were among the few who openly opposed the war. Their pioneering work helped build a huge peace movement.

In the labor movement of the 1970s , 80s and 90s communist workers along with other progressive rank and filers helped build caucuses to fight for more democracy, diversity and affirmative action and against “business unionism.”

In the 1970’s Communists led the movement to free Angela Davis continuing the party’s commitment to defend victims of political repression. We worked for peace and nuclear disarmament. Communists always focus on opposing the U.S. government’s role in supporting dictatorial regimes abroad, from apartheid in South Africa to the fascist dictator Pinochet in Chile.

Why does the Communist Party oppose violence?

Communists believe that social change can only be accomplished through the united action of mass movements which express the majority will of the people. Peaceful methods of change are not only the right thing to do, they are the most effective way to unite and mobilize the greatest majorities.

Violence, on the other hand, is a tool of the big corporations and the governments they control. To preserve their power, they use violence against workers’ and people’s movements.

In contrast, Communists seek to change society peacefully. We work to expand every democratic and electoral avenue as part of our fight for working class political and economic power.

Our party believes that it is possible to make fundamental transformations using the electoral process, the Constitution and especially the Bill of Rights.

What about the Communist Party and religion?

Communists are not against religion. We are against capitalism. In fact, the Party has its own Religion Commission which seeks to build positive relations with religious people and communities in the struggle to make life better for working people. Most religious people believe in justice, peace, and respectful relations among the peoples of the world, and many are motivated by their faith to work for those goals.

Membership in the Communist Party is open to all who agree with our program, regardless of religious beliefs.

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.

Why does the Communist Party fight to expand democracy?

We believe that the broad participation of working people in every area of life is the gateway to a more just and humane future. Socialism offers the best environment for democracy to fully flourish because it sharply limits the power of corporations to dominate politics and the economy. Socialism’s democratic potential can only be realized, however, if broad sections of the people are wholeheartedly engaged in every aspect of society’s decision-making processes.

Under capitalism, the Communist Party USA fights to expand the limited democratic rights we now have. For example, we fight for the Employee Free Choice Act and the right of workers to join unions.

We are proud of our record against undemocratic laws that upheld racism, sexism, or other forms of discrimination. By standing up to the McCarthy witch hunts, Communists defended democracy. We call for abolition of torture, total reform of the prison system, and an end to the death penalty.

Communists see the struggle for democracy as empowering people, just as we see people empowering democracy.

Why is the working class at the heart of the communist program?

The working class and working people as a whole are the overwhelming majority of society. The working class creates everything that the world’s people need to survive and thrive – from food, housing, health care, energy, education to transportation, music and art. Because working people make the country go, they are also uniquely positioed to change the society. Workers, when united and working together with other oppressed people, have the power to change the world.

The Road to Socialism USA, the program of the Communist Party, is aimed guiding the struggle to eventually win political, economic and social power for working people so they can make sure that everyone fairly and equally enjoys the fruits of their labor. You can find out more in the Party Program.

Why is the fight against racism, sexism and oppression so important to the communists?

We make the fight for equality an important part of every struggle we fight. The Communist Party fights for full equality for people of all races, for women and men, straight people and LGBT, for speakers of all languages, for young people and older people, and for people of all religious beliefs or none. The U.S. working class includes millions of immigrant workers. We stand for full rights for these workers, regardless of their documentation status. We believe in equality because it is just and right. Even more, the fight for equality is key to uniting the working class into a powerful force for the changes we need.

Is the Communist Party USA part of an international movement?

Yes! We are internationalists. Capitalism is a global system of exploitation and oppression. We have relationships of solidarity with communist and workers parties in countries across the globe. We believe that the world working class, and those oppressed by capitalism in any form are natural allies. We work in solidarity with all movements around the world that struggle for independence, peace and economic and social justice.

We believe that the freedom and advancement of the American people is closely tied to the freedom and advancement of all working people and the oppressed around the world.